Red Guards Against Rednecks

When you applied to the MBA program we required you to write an essay that addressed the ethics of Google (and other firms) doing business in a China, and the ethics of internet censorship in general. And Google was also in the news a great deal for its (alleged) decision to pull out of China. But before you read the rest of this post and watch the below video, be sure to read my initial post (and the cited WSJ article) therein, Battling the Information Barbarians, as it will give you a historical perspective on this issue.

Then, check out this video presentation (click HERE) of Kaiser Kuo at my undergrad alma mater, the University of Nebraska – Lincoln. This video is an opportunity for you to invest. While it starts out a bit slow, and may not be as funny or as intellectually “un”challenging (i.e., easy) as the Jon Stewart videos I asked you to watch, Kaiser’s talk is an excellent and thoughtful take on things, and worth your time. He speaks directly to the very essay admission questions you responded to when you applied to the program.

It is a 1 hour and 18 minute broadcast (includes Q&A). The last 1/2 of his main presentation is where he hits most of the meat but watch the whole video. The intro takes about 2:40 minutes to get through to get to his actual speech. His talk is titled, “Shouting Across the Chasm: Chinese and American Netizens Clash in Cyberspace”. You will learn a great deal about the true Internet and information landscape in China that you did not know before.

[March 2012 update/addenedum sent in from MBA student Keith Cody: “If you found the web player difficult to use, click HERE for a direct link to the mp4 video, you can download it and play it back in your preferred player.”]

FYI, Kaiser is a UC Berkeley grad and four years ago he exclusively spoke to our MBAs during our trip to China. Below is a more beefy bio for Kaiser.

Your thoughts and takeaways from his talk? And what are your thoughts after reading the WSJ article noted above about China “Battling the Barbarians”?

Kaiser Kuo: Born in the U. S. to Chinese parents, Kuo lives in China and identifies equally as American and Chinese. Formerly director of digital strategy for the Beijing office of a global advertising agency, Kuo has worked as a technology and business writer for publications such as Time, TimeAsia, China Economic Review, Asia Inc., and the South China Morning Post. He has serves as an advisor for Youku.com, a leading video sharing company in China (China’s YouTube). He currently serves as the Director of International Communication for Baidu (China’s Google). Kuo co-founded China’s most famous rock band, Tang Dynasty, and continues to be active in the Chinese music scene.

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38 Responses to Red Guards Against Rednecks

  1. Hemanth Kundeti says:

    Dr. Carr, thank you for a very interesting podcast. I can understand and relate to where Kaiser Kuo is coming from. It is unfortunate that people fight wars instead of finding common ground on Internet. The internet is the only window of communication between China and the rest of the world (even if limited). If the Chinese netizens continue to see aggressive posturing of the other global netizens, it would only confirm their worst fears and would breed antagonism, as they see it through their lens mired with the scars of the past. The scars that were made in the past to a nation’s psyche cannot be erased in a matter of a few years. Sometimes the scars last decades. To understand a nation, we should try to understand the history of the nation.
    Communist government of China would not have succeeded in implementing widespread economic reforms, if not for the popular public support for opening up their markets to the developed world especially America. If petty wars like the one on internet continue, China will not be able to justify its economic cooperation with America. Subsequently if their only eye is poked time and again, that eye might turn sore.

  2. Kirk Story says:

    Thank you for this post. To date, I have only heard fragments of this issue. I recall a friend showing me that if you google search “I hate _______” the top two blanks are #1 “the United States,” and #2 “China.” Kaiser Kuo’s talk underscores an alarming new dynamic in China/US relations catalyzed by the internet and resulting in “a decline at the people to people level.” In other words, it is not the bilateral state-to-state relations that are breaking down between China and the US, it is a virtual clash amongst nationalists from these nations that are fueling populist animosity. Kuo notes that at this time in national politics, both China and the US are substantially impacted by populism and often times unsophisticated value systems. The Chinese government has to respond to public opinion despite the fact that the West portrays it as a ‘repressive totalitarian regime.’ The fact that a considerable portion of the internet using populations of both countries are confirming the respective extremist positions of the ‘radical right,’ and therefore influencing a bottom-up distrust for the opposing nation, is frightening when peering into the 21st century.

    Kuo postulates from a corner that sees two sets of understandable people with uninterpreted worldviews. In his book he aims to give the American intellectual layman a sense of “why there is merit to the way the Chinese approach issues given the set of assumptions they are approaching them from.” I find hope in Kuo’s statement that when ‘travelling in Europe, he sees a group of Chinese tourists and a group of American tourists, and is equally ashamed.’ It appears that the most promising solution lies in this context. I contend that positive interpersonal contact is the surest way to bridge the gap in person-to-person Chinese/US relations. It is important for both populations to uncover the decency in one another as opposed a bludgeoning their counterparts with the radical right’s insecurity-turned-aggression nonsense. I commend the steps that Cal Poly’s GSB has made in facilitating interpersonal contact by sending its students to the Far East on an annual basis. This sort of forward looking action is our best shot at cultivating a bipolar or mulitpolar world order where powers cooperate and compromise instead of paying credence to the naysayers of their respective societies.

  3. Dan N says:

    Third best line in Kuo’s lecture is the one about groups of American tourists and groups of Chinese tourists in Europe. I won’t ruin it for those who haven’t watched but it made me laugh out loud. Chris, please do your best to teach us how not to come across as one of those groups!

    Second best line was, “it is no longer just in western democracies where popular sentiment percolates up to policy…there are Internet users on both sides of the Pacific ready to think the worst and spoiling for a fight… the next time something like [the Chinese embassy bombing in Belgrade] happens, Beijing is going to have a hell of a time trying to reign in popular nationalistic fury. bet on it.” I’m currently reading Shirk’s book and this has been the primary theme. All this time I’ve thought that the tail wagged the dog in China. I’m beginning to get a much different picture of the relationship between the people and their government. Reading Shirk and listening to Kuo reminds me of Zambrano’s lectures about game theory. As American policy makers anticipate Chinese responses to potential political issues, they must take into account the Chinese government’s increasing sensitivity to “social stability” lest they tragically miscalculate Chinese behavior.

    Favorite line from this lecture was, “having your opinion discounted, dismissed outright, because you live behind the Great Firewall, is infuriating.” Guilty. Right here. I’m one of those people who has assumed that the ordinary Chinese citizen doesn’t know what they are missing. I’m one of those who tells my “western narrative with maddening smugness.” I really do want to understand before being understood. It’s just not easy. I have to overcome my insecurities, pride, and a lifetime of social and familial influence to see the world as a non-American. Based on what I’ve seen, heard, and read so far, our differing world views are not better or worse, they are just different.

    Out of curiosity, Chris, what did you think of Kuo’s comment about the audience being “a westernized… err… mid-westernized audience?” Why, in your opinion, does Kuo make the distinction?

  4. Chris Carr says:

    @ Dan —

    Kaiser is a good guy with a sharp sense of humor. I suspect he was both tipping his hat to the Midwest for being warm and unique, but also ribbing us Midwesterners in a good natured way for also being … well … unique from east and west coasts.

  5. Cassie Bettencourt says:

    I thought Kaiser Kuo’s talk was very informative, well-paced, and relevant. I really appreciated the fact that Kaiser identifies with both being Chinese and American. This made what he was saying more credible to me.

    A few takeaways:
    Due to the Internet controversy and mutual misunderstandings between the Chinese and Americans, there has been a decline in people to people relationships. I thought it was interesting that Kaiser distinguished between this relationship and the bilateral relationship between the Chinese and American nations/governments. However, they tie together due to the fact that popular opinion filters up into policy-a point Kaiser also makes. I have never viewed the sometimes tumultuous relationship between China and America in this light, as a people to people problem, so this was a new way of looking at things for me.

    Also, Kaiser’s view on opening the floodgates all at once versus in a methodical manner was dead on to me. It is easy for us, as Americans, to say that China should allow freedom of information since that is a freedom we hold dearly and have never gone without. However, since the Internet presents a time with instantaneous communication and near universal literacy, I can completely understand Kaiser’s statement that there is some public fear of anarchy in China. This seems rational to me.

    Finally, Kaiser mentioned steps to take when communicating with and learning about the Chinese people and nation including:
    1 – Do not condescend
    2 – Try and learn what Chinese people think when their defenses aren’t up
    3 – Read relevant history.
    I found steps 2 and 3 particularly interesting because they relate to the WSJ article we read in this post, “Battling the Barbarians.” The Chinese embrace a culture of “defensive nationalism,” and it is important to recognize that our offensive pushiness toward universal human rights can be viewed just as negatively as the Chinese tendency to be defensive of their uniqueness. It is necessary for us to understand where China is coming from before imposing judgement. Doing so will help to relieve some of the increasing “people to people” tension between nations.

  6. Robbin Forsyth says:

    The speech was quite good. Looong… but good.
    Kaiser is quite an interesting guy and does truly seem to have a foot on both sides of the Pacific. To add a little context, check out Kaiser on bass: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BE7yn2V2_HA

    His talk is impressive in that like James Fallows he is able to distill large issues down to basic human interactions.
    Some of the best ideas he went over are:
    – The that the CPC elite believe that most Chinese are too simplistic to handle too much information from the outside world. The way he simplified the complicated idea of the ingrained Confucian authority hierarchy is impressive. I think he probably right in that a metered opening of info from the outside world is best.
    – The fact that half of the Chinese population has actually lived through truly chaotic policy failures such as the cultural revolution and the great leap forward is important to remember. There are valid reasons that the CPC elite are wary of fast and radical change – they have seen it fail on a scale like no other nation.
    – It was also interesting to hear how communication on the internet is forcing the CPC to be reactionary towards the will of the Chinese people. This could ultimately force the democratization of the country in a lasting way.
    – One area that he really did well in was explaining some simple commonalities between the Chinese and American people. Both peoples embrace an isolationist mindset and are oblivious to how they are viewed by the outside world. Americans do this from a short history of perceived “independence” from our mainly European heritage. The Chinese carry a banner of “Ancient” culture and colonial abuses to form the same view. Two VERY different histories, but VERY similar world views. I find this interesting and nobody has ever been able to present this to me in the same way.
    – The idea of Western condescension towards the Chinese due to their living in a “censored” world is also interesting. Unfortunately, I have had these type of thoughts. Hearing Kaiser talk about the ignorance of this view point was a good reality check. Smart, inquisitive people will always find ways around censorship and discounting them is a HUGE mistake and puts one at a disadvantage intellectually.

    On another note, it is unfortunate that the podium at UNL is labeled with LIED CENTER. I understand that there is probably a donor involved in the naming of the center but UNL should spend the time to crop their videos better before publishing on the web. The entire time Kaiser is talking the word “LIED” is floating in the shot below him.

    Cheers,

    rbbn

  7. Tara Millard says:

    This blog has been my favorite thus far. Kaiser reinforced what I have always heard about the great firewall in China, but it seems as though the Chinese are finding ways around it. Kaiser Kuo offers an interesting and seemingly unbiased perspective. I have always assumed that being called the world-wide web, people must use the internet in similar ways around the world. Yet according to Kaiser, “[The Chinese and The Americans] were standing nose to virtual nose, but they were not, by any means, seeing eye-to-eye.” Although we all have access to “similar” internet, yet China uses the internet in a much different way.

    While I have always used the internet as an informational tool, Kaiser points out that China uses the internet for entertainment purposes, but more importantly, political issues. In a country where speaking freely about the government is a dangerous feat, the internet serves as a tool for discussion and interaction amongst citizens. While I use the internet primarily for research and email, Kaiser points out that the Chinese use chat rooms and discussion boards as sites for interaction. Although I cannot picture my life without the web, it seems to serve a more important and radical role in China and may prove to serve as the primary tool for starting a cultural revolution.

  8. David Hart says:

    This was a great post! Kaiser gave a very well-thought out speech that helps us better understand some of the issues affecting the US and China. We are now only beginning to see the effects of the internet in China compared to what the future will hold. Kaiser gave us a nice overview of the internet in China as well as his hopes for the future.

    One of my favorite lines from his speech was when Kaiser described the US relationship with China. He said, “We sit nose to virtual nose but are not close to seeing eye to eye.” We have a lot of work to do to bridge the chasm that separates the US and China.

    He noted that the internet has made us more fractured and more tribal than before. I don’t know that I completely agree with that, but I think for the most part that is correct. For example, in the age of unlimited information, why is it that people only look at information online that corresponds to their own worldviews? He used the example of politics–people only read the blogs of people who are on their own side of the aisle. I share Kaiser’s hope that in the future people will try to reap the benefit of the internet by stepping outside of their own comfort zone and trying to understand the viewpoints of others.

    I thought it was interesting that Kaiser spoke of his belief in a “measured approach” to opening the floodgates of information in China. He also noted that Americans would do well to try to understand why China has its “great firewall.” They believe this is necessary to promote social stability which then leads to economic development. With 338 million people (and counting) online in China, the floodgates will open at some point.

    It was also fascinating to hear his take on the environment. He argues the solution to environmental problems are going to have to come from the bottom up, not just the top down. The internet will have to play a role. Of course he notes that environmentalism is a tough sell to the Chinese who view this topic as “sticks thrown from the west.” The US needs to walk the walk on this topic before China will follow suit.

    I share Kaiser’s hope that we as Americans will continue to learn to better work with China to improve economic and other conditions. This bilateral relationship will play a major influence in the coming decades. We need to learn to try to understand each other, rather than having what Kaiser describes as a bipolar relationship. I agree with his suggestions to Americans of not having condescending attitudes as well as trying to learn what Chinese people are really thinking.

    The WSJ article also provided new insights. Better understanding Chinese history can help us at least better understand why the Chinese are the way they are today. The government in China is trying to borrow what they view as useful concepts from the West and disregard the others. It will be interesting to see how the internet will help more and more Chinese have a voice in the future of the country.

    Back to Kaiser–his speech provided a lot of food for thought. He seems to have to perfect background for this topic as he has both American and Chinese cultural ties. He also has a passion for the subject. His book is bound to be a fascinating read.

  9. Will Moeller says:

    There were some powerful assertions in this speech, particularly in the second half once Kaiser gets his ire up. It made for an interesting watch.

    I believe it’s worth summarizing what I thought was really enlightening. The bilateral relationship between China and the United States is the most important event in our lives. This relationship has never really existed prior to the past decade. Now that relationship is being built by netizens in the United States and the 338 million netizens in China. The reason for this is that internet is simply a cheap and effective way of communicating. Unfortunately, too many netizens on both sides of the ocean are ready to fight, in Kaiser’s words. This leads to an initial fear and mistrust of the other side. This, furthermore, is exacerbated by the fact that Chinese officials are becoming quite concerned with netizen opinion because of how much pressure online opinion exerts on political figures in China. Where does this lead? If not checked, Kaiser warns, netizen opinion could irreparably damage Sino-U.S. relations.

    Kaiser gives Americans three tips. First, don’t condescend. Second, Learn what the Chinese think when their defenses aren’t up. Third, read a book. Of these three however, the first is the most important, don’t condescend – anyone, anywhere, especially in a situation when you’re first meeting. All of us can benefit from keeping that in mind.

    As Kaiser’s talk relates to the article, American businesses in particular need to understand the unique position China is in. As Kaiser says, the importance of economic development is unquestioned in China. But economic development hinges on political stability. Political stability hinges on being able to control (to some degree) information. Thus, giving unfettered information to 1.2 billion people threatens China’s economic development. Google may not agree with the Chinese government’s censorship. But rather than condemn that action without a second thought, it is worth asking why the government is doing that. The analogy Kaiser uses is the immense amount of pressure built up against the floodgates in China. Instantly opening the information floodgates may not only threaten economic development, but also a controlled society.

    Finally, there was a lot of overlap between was Kaiser and Shirk (in her book) talk about – Belgrade bombing, planes colliding. This reinforces the significance of these events.

  10. Brady Haug says:

    The internet and censorship are topics that I have had growing curiosity about. After reading about the bizarre censoring activity that occurred during the Olympics and over such issues as Tibet and Tiananmen Square, I have wanted to read more on the subject. As Kuo mentions, it is not surprising that the “Iron Curtain 2.0” or Great Firewall is the poster child for censorship. We all have heard that Facebook, Twitter, Flicker, and other social media sites are blocked and can only be accessed through VPN servers. I was interested to hear his reasoning for the censorship, as expressed by the Chinese government. I find it hard to believe that the politically sensitive material that is blocked would lead to social instability. I found his discussion of the dissemination of information in Thomas Paine’s time, in comparison to that of modern times, as a very intriguing stance. Posing the idea that information moved at a trickle then, as compared to a flood today (without censorship) really did adjust my view of Chinese censorship. I think it is a travesty that Chinese students may have no idea of the events of Tiananmen Square, but I can certainly find validity in Kuo’s thought that a sudden transformation of censorship could lead to civil unrest.

    Kuo states the bilateral relationship with China could be transformed in relation to censorship because internet access is the most affordable source of entertainment for the Chinese. There are 338 million internet users. I am still stunned to find that the Olympics had such a large impact on the Chinese public. The most interesting point that he posed was regarding his thoughts on the Chinese American sentiment. He attributed the internet as the reason for (as exhibited in the Olympics) the fractured and paranoid relationship that we have with China. The way he presents this material really does change my view of Chinese censorship. Though I still don’t agree with it, I can see the reality of how censorship can be positively implemented.
    Another interesting point that I have never heard dealt with criticism. Kuo stated that the Chinese couldn’t separate western criticism of their government from themselves. As Americans criticized China throughout the Olympics, it fostered a sense of attack. It was an interesting insight into the patriotism of both Americans and Chinese acting as a detriment. I think one crucial take away that spoke to me, was to be mindful when criticizing. As Kuo mentioned, read relevant history and don’t condescend. His final points correlated to the article, “Battling the Information Barbarians.” As Americans, we find freedom to be one of our most crucial basic rights. This includes freedom of information. Google is striving to “make things better for the Chinese people,” but we cannot enforce our ideas on Chinese culture like the early Christian missionaries in China. We must be aware of the history within a culture.

  11. Jessica Shayler says:

    My dad loves westerns. One of his favorite “tips” to give waiters is “Don’t squat with yer spurs on.” On a more serious side, I remember one story of a man whose friend got in a saloon fight. A bystander nearby asked the man “Aren’t you going to help your friend?” “Ain’t my fight,” the man replied. According to Kaiser Kuo there are many on both sides of the pond who could benefit from learning this lesson, however it is more difficult to practice than it is to preach. I almost feel that willingness to assume the worst about others and “spoiling for a fight” is part of the human condition. How many broken families can attest to this? I know it is something I struggle with daily. It seems that what both sides need is a respected champion willing to speak on their behalf in the right way. That is without condescension (as Kuo mentioned) and with humility. I know I have brought humility in my prior posts, but honestly I don’t think it can be mentioned too much. I feel humility is one of the sincerest markers of strength and leadership.

    One other item from Kaiser Kuo’s lecture I would like to comment on involves freedom of information. According to Kuo, Shirk, and others, the CCP believes that “unfettered access to information leads invariably to social instability.” Kuo pointed out that when the US enacted freedom of speech, there was not as much at stake since information did not travel as fast as it does now and “opening the floodgates of information” might very well plunge the nation into chaos. I wonder if this is a possibility because when the masses receive sanctioned information (propaganda) it is because the government wants them to be “whipped up into a frenzy” (Japan?). Is it possible that the masses have been conditioned to be reactionary to information?

    Please note the use of the word “masses” vs. citizens or individuals. I recognize that mass behavior is very different from individual behavior. Kaiser Kuo alluded to this as well when he said the conversations you hear when the Chinese netizens (individuals) think the US is not listening are very different from the ones directed to the US (masses).

    Finally, I thought the article “Battling the Information Barbarians” provided relevant historical background. One view it had in common with Kuo’s lecture is “Chinese are meant to feel that foreigners who talk about human rights are doing so only to bash China,” and “No matter how fine the ideals, people resent it when they are pushed down their throats.” This brings us back to humility. Who are we to push our values on others? Especially before sincerely trying to understand their perspective?

  12. Kristine Spencer says:

    For being a longer video, Kaiser Kuo held my interest for the entire time. His unique cultural upbringing and cultural perspective offers a lot of insight into Sin-American relations, which as well all know, will be increasingly important. I guess I had never previously thought about how people to people relationships effect governmental organizations. Kuo’s speech didn’t inform me of new coarse information, such as there is censorship in China, environmentalism huge problem, or the internet is an important force on the world today. But I did learn a lot about the subtleties of relationships on the internet and the bigger impact that they have. This also flowed over into what the Chinese think about the US, issues that the US deems as important, and how the Chinese feel about how the US is stereotyped and their thoughts about the Chinese. Kuo really put into words our stereotypes of the Chinese that are simpler than we would like to believe. “Why don’t you hate your government as much as I think that you ought to?” I know that the exact question has been hiding at the back of my mind somewhere. But his speech also made me think about how these stereotypes in turn effect how the Chinese think of us. All of these complex ideas get mumbled and confused because the method we use to communicate, the internet, is impersonal and divides people into factions. One attack leads to another, and before you know it, the “vicious encounters” Kuo discusses leads to political pressure on governments and weakened relations. I was aware that the internet is literally the only influential public sphere for the Chinese.

    In the end, it is our differences that Kuo describes that are driving us apart and weakening our people to people relationships. We are both ignorant or don’t care what the world thinks of them, we both feel singled out for some special purpose in the world, and we have both suffered in crucial points in history. We both need to find a way to come together and personalize the other by identifying them as human beings, not a Red Army and a country of red necks. I think it will be difficult to embrace our similarities. As Kuo describes, the US is the reigning superpower, and China is the rising superpower, and both are blinded by their own visions of how they think things should be.

    Kuo’s also described the Chinese sentiment that social stability is a necessary for economic development. He also mentioned that this philosophy was part of being Chinese: do not mess with economic development. This leads into the WSJ article that proposed a similar idea that “obedience to authority is not just a way to keep order, but an essential part of being Chinese.” This statement worries me. In today’s world, I see the idea of “culture” as a very controversial topic. Where does culture begin and end, or what is culture, and what is not culture? Is it part of a culture to obey a rigid hierarchy, or is it the regime protecting their power? How much can culture be used to justify actions? It worries me to think that this cultural aspect is being driven by the party in power, but it relieves my worries to see that the internet is a way for the Chinese to express their opinions, even if they are different.

  13. Chris Bruns says:

    Kuo was an enjoyable speaker, and I believe that he spoke well, considered issues from both sides, and he has the genuine hope to bridge the gap between the US and China. Kuo also added some flair by interjecting some funny, though slightly corny, one-liners. Some of the main takeaways/interesting points I gathered from Kuo are:
    1.)The escalation of the internet brawl between the US and the West starting with the Olympics being held in China. The subjects being debated and argued by citizens covered everything, from carbon emissions to Darfur to censorship.
    2.) The story about the masseuse that was accused of stabbing an official. She was supported by internet users and the outcry resulted in her diminished sentence.
    3.)The internet was supposed to destroy distance and bring everyone together. Instead things are more tribal, with people not crossing political boundaries or differing ideals. People don’t speak civilly to each other and there are many in shouting-matches with one another. Kuo then pointed out that “Red Guards vs. red necks” are the extremists staring “nose-to-nose but no where near eye-to-eye.”
    4.)That the Chinese would point back to the US when confronted with the burden of responsibility of issues. A funny example was driving Hummers in Beijing.
    5.) “Why don’t you Chinese hate your government as much as I think you ought to?”
    6.)That the burden of blame concerning the misunderstanding of the other lies on both the US and China, and that there is enough blame to go around.
    7.)The outlandish belief that the of people of China are somehow hobbled and intellectually stunted by living behind the ‘Great Firewall of China.’
    I hope that some of his points and advice from near the end of his speech really start to become adopted. He stresses that both China and the US should try to learn from each other, show respect, and have polite conversations and exchanges of ideas. That both the US and China need to take time to combat ignorance and to learn the other sides’ history and culture. That both nations have things to be proud of and ashamed of, and that no one side is without fault.

    In the WSJ article Battling the Information Barbarians I really enjoyed the way it was structured and the use of historical references. It was well written and I appreciated the way the author was able to illustrate both sides of the core beliefs, and why there was a rift. I am still unsure where I stand, but I can respect the points of both sides and the difficult decision US companies and individuals wanting to do business in China must face. A fine line is walked between forcing Western ideas on others and standing up for what you truly believe in.

  14. Randy Camat says:

    I thought Kaiser did a great job in putting the issues with China into perspective. One particular quote from Kaiser that struck me was “Why don’t you Chinese hate your government as much as I think you ought to?” This boils down the main concern we have with their government’s strict privacy laws and media control. However, I did like when he turned it around and joked how we Americans have “real news… like Fox” showing that our own government does create its own form of information-controlled environment. This reminded me of the recent false claims that Toyota’s electrical systems were at fault for unexpected vehicle acceleration when at the same time, Ford, Chevorlet, and Chrysler ads were saturating TV commercials. Kaiser’s joke not only made me realize that our governments have similar practices, but we as citizens do are similar as well. I check out one of the mentioned blogs – chinaSMACK.com – and the comments from a viral video on youku about this husky puppy’s amazing sleeping ability seemed as if I was reading comments off of Youtube, if not better comments instead of the usual bashing comments. I also found a Gap ad campaign on chinaSMACK.com targeting the youth showing Americans and Chinese in different areas such as music, environment, art, etc. with a slogan of “Let’s Gap Together” responding to “the government’s openness and reconnection to the world.”
    http://advertising.chinasmack.com/2011/gap-clothing-and-usher-bring-freedom-to-china.html

    The majority of the takeaways come towards the end of his talk when he gives three steps for improving relationships with China: (1) Don’t condescend, (2) Learn how the Chinese think when they are not under a microscope, and (3) Read relevant history; read a book – his book – and not really focusing on current news. All three are equally important in improving relationships because it helps us view the Chinese as equals; not that we know more because we don’t have a “Great Firewall” and we have freedom of speech. It is also important to understand their way of thinking in step 2 by understanding their history (step 3). Kaiser does give a few examples of blogs that show, in English, what the Chinese are actually doing/ interested in.

  15. To Battling Information Barbarians:

    I liked the article ‘The Internet does not Rise Above Nations and Cultures.’ It goes back to what seems to be the common theme of this course in that Americans assume too much and do not approach China in the right light. We just learned about this in my negotiations class; this is called ‘naïve realism’: where someone assumes that the way they see the world is correct and one is strange and untrustworthy if they do not share this ‘reality.’

    The idea that the internet does not bring people together into a homogeneous mass is interesting. Much of the propaganda about the internet, and digital communication in general, is that it travels great distances and breaks down barriers. The idea that many sites and companies are born out of differing subgroups of people and thus cater only to those sets of people is an interesting notion. The founders are successful because they understand this subgroup. It is incredibly arrogant to assume that these subgroups are everywhere, in every country and that we are capable of understanding them. This is why Baidu (the Chinese counterpart of Google) will succeed in China and not in the US, and vice versa.

    To Kaiser Kuo:

    I really feel like this is one of the best blogs to date. His speech was really informative and his speaking style was very clear. I also felt that Kaiser Kuo brought a lot of authority is his speech by qualifying his expertise and explaining why he is someone whose insight matters. Having someone that truly represents both China and America and refers to themselves as belonging to both camps can really become the gatekeepers and bridge-builders between these two nations. They are like interpreters who can cater to both sides but also provide insights that only this type of interpreter can. Best qualification: “When I’m traveling in Europe, and I see a group of American tourists and I see a group of Chinese tourists, I am equally ashamed.”

    His comments about Chinese leaders holding unity as the most important thing keeping the masses at bay, and that the floodgates of change have significantly more pressure behind them due to the instantaneous connection that people have to the rest of the world is not only profound but true. This is a lot of what Susan Shirk wrote about in her book, China, Fragile Superpower.

    This also really puts the Chinese leaders in perspective. Where we only see things from a rights perspective (people should all have ‘x’ rights), the Chinese leaders understand the real ramifications of any large political decision and the impact it will have on a nation of their size. I don’t think a vast majority of Americans really understand quite how many people are in China and what that number means in terms of policy changes. His examples of ‘netizens’ and their outcries having real effects on the outcome of a court’s decision truly speaks to the power of the masses when they are online. Those in power do not want to upset the sea of people that they ‘govern.’

    Take-Aways: How Americans can interact better with the Chinese:

    Step 1 Don’t Condescend.
    Step 2 Try and learn what Chinese people actually think when their defenses aren’t up.
    Step 3 Read some relevant history.

  16. j hurley says:

    The “Great Firewall” of China is no new topic and it seems to me that in the past few years the same facts and complaints regarding it remain unchanged. Of coarse it is easy for me to agree that the “Great Firewall” does no good and is used to keep China’s people at bay, however I do not understand the Chinese culture completely.

    Kuo brings up the fact that many people in Chinese authority believe that censoring the internet is important and without it, the Chinese people would be led into chaos and that the “masses” would be uncontrollable.

    Immediately, I arrive at the conclusion that this sounds ridiculous, but them again, the claim does have some value. China in the last few years has begun to increase its power and capabilities, much of which can be the attributed to social stability. If this is indeed true, then why would China want to decrease its chances of retaining stability? Allowing, what many Chinese believe adds chaos into the everyday lives of its people would only increase the vulnerability of China. At this point in time China stands on the bridge of becoming a world wide superpower and failing back into poverty. If China is truly such a fragile super power, then every action taken to increase chances of survival may be reasonable, even if many Americans think otherwise.

  17. Jessie Wilkie says:

    Kaiser Kuo’s speech at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln was very good. I’m always amazed at how skillful some people can be with two languages. The few times that Kuo slipped in a Chinese word, it sounded just as natural as his English. This, for me, helped increase his credibility and opened my mind to listening to him more. He really does take advantage of his position on an island (identifying well with both American and Chinese culture).

    I liked how Kuo made mention of Susan Shirk right away. This just enforced how connected everything is. It also made it more clear that both Kuo and Shirk are colleagues and experts in the same realm: Sino-US relations. Kuo, however, specializes on the role of the Internet in the relationship. Kaiser Kuo brought up a myriad of though-provoking points throughout his presentation.

    Kuo talks about history, bilateral, and people-to-people relations. The history provides a context for us to understand the latter two talking points. Kuo emphasizes the importance of history throughout his speech. He lists it as on the the three things that we as Americans should do: read some relevant history. He defines relevant history as books and not just news stories. In his presentation, he gives the specific historical examples of: Thomas Paine, Belgrade and the Wugang manganese smelting plant. Kuo also gives nonspecific historical examples about growth, environmental disasters, etc.

    When discussing bilateral negotiations, Kuo stresses the point that more-and-more in this modern world these relationships are not as telling as they used to be. Bilateral relations happen to be good between China and the US now. Even though they suffered a huge low after the Belgrade incident. In 2008, the Obama administration made a smooth transition in assuming Beijing-Washington relations. Even the outspoken, dragon-bashers Pelosi and Clinton bit their tongues. The bilateral relationship’s amiable position, however, might be threatened by deteriorating people-to-people relationships.

    The Chinese and the Americans are meeting nose to virtual nose on the Internet, but they definitely are not seeing eye to eye. Americans perceive the Internet censorship in China as bad. They are befuddled by the fact that Chinese citizens don’t recognize how autocratic and oppressive that their government is. Some Americans would even go as far to call the Great Firewall of China the Iron Curtain 2.0 because in their minds’ it’s a symbolic dividing line between a free West and an autocratic East. In their eyes, it’s a direct stifling of freedom to deny the Chinese such things as Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, Flicker, and various blogs. How dare the Chinese government! How dare the Chinese citizens not realize their choked freedom! The Chinese view the Internet as the most bang for their buck for entertainment. They love bulletin boards and chat rooms. They have their own social networks. They criticize the government on the Internet. They feel like citizens, or netizens, of this virtual space, in a nation that has never really had a common space. They also believe that the Americans are out to get them and to hold them down.

    This belief begin around the 2008 Olympics when the increasing number of English speaking Chinese read English news stories on the Olympics. These stories bashed China. Let’s turn this around for a second and think about if the reverse happened… I think that American nationalistic pride would be deeply hurt. I know that I would feel slighted and/or insulted even if I don’t agree with my government 100%. It’s not that I identify more with the government, but the idea of the nation: the people, the place, the history, the culture, etc. This is probably similar to how the Chinese felt. And it reared its head on the Internet where Chinese and American citizens went head to head online. They ended up fighting over a myriad of issues: Tibet, Taiwan, Tianenman, trade, Internet censorship, religious freedom, Darfur… It got nasty and polarized.

    Both cultures share a lot of similarities, some are good and others are bad. Kuo discusses these commonalities at the end of his presentation as a base for a friendship. I believe that we should learn to recognize that we are all people and that we are all capable of separating our personal views with those of the government (even though it might be difficult because of media). Also, this is ironic because if we view the citizens as so tied to the governments when the governments have a good relationship you would think that the citizens would too… But this is not the case as stated again and again by Kuo. I guess the bottom line of Kuo’s presentation is that the Internet can be used for good and for evil. I believe that, we as Americans, should use the Internet to create positive encounters with the Chinese citizens. And hope that our good common features will outweigh the bad.

  18. Kyle R. says:

    This lecture by Kaiser Kuo was very informative, as it seemed to give an insider’s perspective on our complex bi-lateral relationship with China. By being a Chinese-American who travels frequently between both countries, he is able to relate and build relationships with Americans and Chinese. This allows him to understand how the citizens of each country think, feel, and judge each other. During his lecture he seemed to provide awareness of the current problems between the U.S. and China and then proposed a plan of action to help us get through the future in a collaborative and effective manner.

    I thoroughly enjoyed his history lesson on the internet in China, even though I have been exposed to most of the information before. He really emphasized how the internet was the first place that the Chinese citizens could publicly voice their opinions. There hadn’t been a place that allowed people to do so in the past. However, even with the informative internet, Chinese citizens are still monitored and restricted from truly voicing their opinion on everything. Kuo mentioned that citizens face threats from the government, Chinese loyalists, and the Great Firewall. He made it personal by stating, “having your opinion discounted, dismissed outright, because you live behind the Great Firewall, is infuriating.” I can see why China is afraid to completely remove all the censorship that exists. There is so much pressure building at the floodgates, with easy access to the internet and mobile devices that promote communication, the Chinese citizens now have a voice. With further adoption of this technology, the Chinese government will have to continue its attempt to reign in the citizens using various techniques.

  19. Tim Easton says:

    I enjoyed the speech that Kaiser gave, although it was really long. He had a unique, unbiased, perspective on the great firewall since he identifies himself as both American and Chinese. He did provide a lot of information that was new to me, as well as confirm information that I already learned. An interesting fact that Kaiser Kuo gave was that the internet in China is mainly used for entertainment purposes. I had heard this before, but did not believe that it was true, because the internet can hold so much valuable information. I guess when information is censored, and the majority of people using the internet are a younger generation then entertainment becomes the main value of the internet. I don’t agree with the censorship of information but it is the way of the Chinese government and an issue that we have to deal with. The US can try to persuade the Chinese government to change their policies, but the decision is ultimately up to the Chinese. One of the most useful parts of Kuo’s speech was the three ways in which Americans should interact with Chinese people. The first rule was do not condescend, the second was try and learn what Chinese people think when their defenses aren’t up, and finally the last rule was to read some relevant history. These are all great rules to consider.

  20. Amanda Podesta says:

    The links to Kaiser were my favourite. His savvy insights were incredibly edifying. For the most part, I listened and learned. On only one point, do I hold some reservation, really. In our Negotiations class, we learnt that in mediation even when one party doesn’t “win,” their satisfaction level is higher if they feel like they were heard. I don’t agree with Kaiser that the faucet of information’s flow should be controlled. Surely the longer the citizens’ voices are muted with no outlet, the more dangerous the possibility of anarchy.
    “What you don’t know, can’t hurt you,” is a faulty maxim. From Shirk’s “China: Fragile Superpower” we are told that many CPC’s officials troll the internet to gauge the people’s feedback on current events. How effective can this really be when comments are removed, users are flagged, and hot topics are probably coded to dodge the cen$0r$? This practice, however well-intentioned, would seem to be self-reinforcing rather than self-correcting. If you’re going to let policy be influenced by webchats, let the people speak! Kaiser would have us believe that China’s websurfers are speaking (and getting around censorship) but having just recently seen the clips of Beijing students absolutely blank about T-Square in your post on Frontline’s “Tank Man,” I have some reservations.
    Another reason why I think it is important that the “floodgates” be open is so that the Chinese people can effectively hear different points of view on potentially inflammatory issues. We have heard much mention about the potential for civil unrest over issues like the Belgrade bombing and the spy plane crash…. In all these circumstances, there was just one outlet, one story being communicated. How dangerous. The Chinese population probably didn’t even know that what happened was still being investigated in Belgrade before they heard the hard-liner story; same with the spy plane. It’d be the equivalent essentially of being told that 9/11 was an attack on America from Saudia Arabia based on their passports… and then never hearing otherwise because it was the party line. I don’t know how resolved I’d feel if all I got was an apology from … Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz.
    Kaiser didn’t give me enough critically reasoned and hard facts to swing me over. I remain convinced that China’s censorship and information-control is a stop gap measure that will be potentially more ruinous in the long-run than if the internet were an information highway… more than entertainment/social venue.

    As an aside:
    This is the second time in the blog series that I’ve read that sarcasm is not prevalent in China (which actually rather surprised me considering Joe Wong’s stylistic dead pan). Wonder what popular jokes in China are…

  21. Chris Fung says:

    I thought the lecture by Mr. Kaiser Kuo was very good since he was able to give a perspective as a Chinese person and as an American. I didn’t know that the internet in China was used primarily for entertainment purposes – you learn something new every day. However, much of what he explained wasn’t ground breaking to me. For example, the way China censors the internet with internet police and server software meant to keep certain information away for its citizen’s eyes has been known for years to anyone who has done a bit of reading on current (and past) world events. It is also no secret that Chinese and Americans see each other in different lights and have differing perspectives on issues that revolve around freedom of information, one-party rule, Tibet, Taiwan, Japan, human rights, trade, etc.

    I believe that what he explained in his lecture were good points in trying to get people from two different, yet hugely influential world cultures to come together and interact effectively. One of the barriers that hinder us is our preconceived notions about the other – Chinese are naïve about issues sitting behind the Iron Curtain 2.0 and Americans are hypocritical. Mr. Kuo points out three lessons that I believe (and personally follow) 1: Don’t be condescending 2: Learn what Chinese people think about issues/get their perspective 3: Read the history of the culture to get some background and worldview of their side of things. These rules seem very simple yet many people in our country (and China) probably don’t consider. Having traveled internationally, you will see things that are different than what happens at home. You may disagree but I don’t think it is prudent to preach change; after all, Rome wasn’t built in a day – you won’t change their perspective in a day either. Just agree to disagree.

    All I can say about this video is that we are all going to have differing opinions on different things. The Chinese citizen, if they were so inclined to, can go around the “Great Firewall” and find the outside perspective that would otherwise be blocked for the common folk. It can also be said of the typical American who can study and learn a non-American perspective if they took the time and energy to do so before forming an opinion about something. Chinese and Americans are not so different – our cultures have the ability to do good, strive to do what is right and live good lives. We just differ on those definitions. That is why the internet can be a good bridge to each other’s culture yet also be a double edged sword and be the cause of the current friction between our two societies.

  22. Tyler Sereno says:

    The speech by Kuo was very imformative and he put things into perspective from both China and the United States. He mentions in the beginning that censorship and the Great Firewall are the first things that come to mind when American think of the Internet and China. There is a lot more pressure behind the flood gates with half of the population carrying some sort of device to send pictures or messages. The Chinese government believes that if they open the flood gates, there will be total chaos. Two major changes in China that effect their take on the Internet are the tremendous growth of the Internet, and the expansion of the English language in Chinese schools. When the Olympics came to Beijing, many Chinese were blindsided by the negative English-language reporting online. International incidents also have an effect on the Chinese online freedom. And as more is censored, China will struggle to achieve nationalistic fury. Kuo also mentions that it is expected to have the Chinese and American people on the same page, but not their governments. He then goes on to say that Americans and Chinese are very similar. Both can be ignorant, isolate themselves, and feel singled out as they were there for a reason. Also, both are decent, hard-working people, and believe that people should rise based on good works or merits. This speech was great and I was Able to learn a lot more about China.

  23. JP Salazar says:

    The concept of an experiential dictionary is an interesting one and one that has interested me for quite some time. It has always intrigued me how language works. We define things and associate their characteristics within our own personal experience. As an example, the classifying and naming of colors has always interested me. We all have a sense of what the color green is. It is the color of money, grass, and trees. But our understanding of green comes from our own perceptions of the world around us. We don’t really know what green is, we just know what things look like that we are told are green. Two people looking at the same object will describe its shape and color the same way. But they are not necessarily seeing the same thing. They are just making associations with things they have seen in the past and referencing their learned definitions of what they are seeing. To help explain this, think of someone who is colorblind just to the color red. When they look at a red object, what they see is grey or a void. But their experience has led them to associate that vision with the color red. They are still able to identify the color of the object, because red to them always looks like grey.
    This is an interesting concept when applied to how people are viewed in relation to their views on China’s government policies. As the speakers identify, these terms are very subjective in nature. While one of the speakers identifies himself as a centralist, he is seen throughout China as an apologist because he goes onto Chinese television. He states that he tries to present some criticisms of the Chinese government in his appearances but has to be careful in how far he goes. But because he is not as critical as some people would like to see, he is seen as a kind of pawn for the government. His purpose is to show how liberal Chinese media has become while not providing any real criticism. This kind of shows some of the defense mechanisms that people on both sides of the debate use. Apologists take on a kind of patronizing attitude when dealing with people who are criticizing their government. They refuse to talk about the real issues, instead focusing on the idea that the concept is more complicated that how it is being presented. This lack of a forum to discuss the real issues goes back to the whole censorship debate. How can thoughtful and effective discussion occur, and solutions to the problems be hashed out, without the availability or determination to do so. If both sides of the debate do not wish to listen to the other side, not to mention not be allowed to communicate on the topic due to government censorship, how can a solution be achieved?
    Overall, I think this podcast did a good job of relating the three terms to the outlooks of people in China. However, I do not think that they actually defined the terms very well. I would say that at this stage of my understanding of China’s policies that I am a centrist. While I think that many of the Chinese policies are heavy handed, I do not think that China being governed by American ideals is the answer either. China is a country that is very different from where I have spent my entire life. As such, China needs to develop policies that work for them, in their situation.

  24. Ashley Ogden says:

    The topic of Kaiser Kuo’s speech is a topic that we have heard a lot about recently. The censorship on Chinese internet and the most important “bi-lateral” relationship between China and the US are issues that have been all over the news and on everyone’s radar (especially those of us going on this trip). However, Kaiser was able to bring up some good points and brought a fresh perspective to the subject. The Battling the Barbarians was a good complement to his speech in that it gave some perspective and set the scene for his talk.

    The main take-a-ways I got from this speech were that:

    1)The relationship between China and America is not only important at the government level, but perhaps even more important on the people to people level. The internet has made the people to people relationship very common. Chinese and Americans are connecting more than ever via the internet and the things they discuss are seen by everyone. This could have a huge impact on the bi-lateral relationship between the two countries.

    2)The internet had become the most important media channel in China for sharing information, getting information, and connecting with others. More people have been learning English and therefore can connect to the English-speaking American and have better discussions. Kaiser argues what is more important is the information on the internet that was written in Chinese then translated to English. This is what the Chinese are saying with the expectation that American won’t read, so you should read it. Each side is prepared to see the worst in the other side, so a complete understanding is necessary to a good relationship.

    3)When connecting and discussing the Chinese-American relationships’ and comparing the two powers: know their history and don’t condescend. Those people, who “shout the loudest” via the internet or any other media, are probably not representing the majority’s opinion. Therefore, don’t be quick to judge after only listening to those who are making the most noise. To have a good relationship with someone (or some country) you must really understand their worldview, which is everything that has made them who they are today, i.e. their history. This is especially important to the Chinese as they feel their history is a big part of who they are today.

  25. Ben Raymond says:

    I thought Kaiser Kuo made some very valid points and did an excellent job allowing listeners to see issues from different perspectives. I have to admit I fall under the category of thinking that the Chinese don’t know what they are missing out on. You really have to put yourself in their shoes and listen to their point of view to see where they are coming from. It was very valuable to hear points of view from both sides. I think that it takes someone of Kuo’s background to really be able to see these issues and be able to translate them in ways that both sides understand. Some of his most important suggestions included:

    – Educate yourself on relevant history before making a judgment
    – Try and learn what the Chinese think when their defenses aren’t up
    – Try not to come across as condescending

    I thought he did a good job trying to let us know where the Chinese people are coming from. He made it clear that both cultures share a lot of similarities, both positive and negative. I like how he explained what the internet means to both of us and how it could be used more effectively. I think its tough for both sides to really understand each other without having grown up in that culture but with the help of the internet we could make strides in building relationships and a greater understanding.

  26. J Vail says:

    Great speaker presentation, and very constructive. I read beforehand that it ‘heats up’ towards the end, but I was surprised that Kuo added a lot more emotional vigor in his speech towards the end. His observations were very keen, and hearing him speak made it clear that you have a much higher understanding of international relations when you fully understand the perspectives of both cultures. I felt that he put a lot of American behaviors and opinions in check by understanding why Americans feel obligated to act a certain way and at the same time knowing how the Chinese react to it.

    Other points of interest for me…
    I liked the connection Kuo made between the attention to China’s censorship and how Americans hold freedom of speech as our ‘central fiber’. He validated that aspect, but also noted how the existence of the ‘ghost net’ shows that the internet isn’t as tightly controlled as some people think. I also liked the phrase ‘ephemeral celebrity’ and how it is one of the best ways to get notoriety in China, and I feel a lot of Americans try to become this figure and hide behind the façade of the internet.

    I couldn’t believe that the internet boom in China expanded from 8 million users in 1999 to 338 million in 2009. I would like to know the figures for this year to see the rate of growth over two years, which I’m sure, extends into 8 digits. I also enjoyed hearing Kuo’s summation of the American media coverage on the Beijing Olympics; I remember watching the games how about 1/3 of the commentary was either on Tibet or the Chinese government, which really has no place in Olympic coverage.

  27. Omar Pradhan says:

    My thoughts after watching this video and listening to the podcast are that Kiaser Kuo is a very gifted observer (and orator) of our shared reality.. Given his bi-cultural upbringing, he is uniquely able to appreciate and hence offer his audience a glimpse into the intersection and cause of variously manipulated China – US (mis)perceptions. The title of his talk drives at his point that the loud voice of the belligerent masses is what we need to be concerned about. His talk made clear to me that, in order to engender a more hopeful shared future, we need to be mindful of how what we say & do could be mischaracterized and manipulated. To analogize, this reminds me of the traveling I did with my undergraduate football team. Before our games, whenever a quote was proffered by the opposing team to local media, our coaching staff wisely tracked it down, photocopied, and posted the offensive, disrespecting, dishonorable attack to each players locker. This certainly had an effect on motivation…and perhaps even unscrupulous “in the trenches” gameplay. Coming back Kuo’s China – US observation, I really like how he calls out both sides for their Pastor Beck’s, Limbaugh’s and Hannity’s. The question is, how do we grow our consciousness to cut out these manipulative nonsensical voices and simply go back to the glorious days of playing for the love of the game (if there ever were such times). Kuo hints at the fact that we need to grow our ability to think for ourselves; have better reasons for doing what we do. Unfortunately, growing this capacity is difficult and time consuming for both sides. Moreover, many stakeholders are growing rich from the status quo. I am reminded of Ken Robinson’s TED talk about how our current schools kill creativity: http://www.ted.com/talks/ken_robinson_says_schools_kill_creativity.html Creativity and the independent thought that engenders it are exactly what both sides need moving forward if we are to have any shot at collaboratively solve problems our global environmental, resource, human rights, nuclear-militarization, etc. challenges.

  28. Kevin K. says:

    After listening to Kaiser Kuo and reading the Wall Street Journal article I have a better understanding of how China and the billion-plus Chinese citizens view not just Americans, but Westerners in general. Kaiser did an excellent job acting as mediator between these Western and Eastern ideals — an apt appointment considering his American and Chinese roots.

    Kaiser points out that the internet in China is not completely useless, like many Westerners like to assume is the product of the supposedly debilitating “Great Fire Wall.” However, Kaiser points out that it is the number one source of entertainment in China and in fact how many outsiders view the internet in China is completely wrong. As both Kaiser and the Wall Street Journal point out, Chinese are skeptical of Western mindsets because of the centuries of attempted imperialism. This Google situation and Westerners’ judgements towards China and its internet is viewed as information imperialism. I had never though about it in this way, but I can see how the disconnect between West and Eastern thinking can create this divide. Kaiser stated that Westerners have this supposed monopoly on information and how they view the world as a whole — leaving China and Eastern trains of thoughts as secondary notions. This is why they may see Google as just another missionary invading their soil, attempting to infiltrate Western ideals into Eastern culture. Thus the term information barbarians.

    These two works combined offer an enlightening experience; one that is really eye opening in regards to a new point of view. What we view as censorship may be a cultural norm of obedience — one that Americans don’t necessarily share as we battle for net neutrality. So when entering into a dialogue on the subject of censorship it is helpful to be able to see the multiple angles and histories of what has led these two cultures into thinking differently — rather than assuming one is automatically right and wrong.

  29. Vladimir says:

    Kaiser Kuo’s speech stresses the importance of doing one’s research before jumping to conclusions about China. It’s tempting to say that Chinese citizens want to have the same relationship with their government as Americans want to have with theirs. People within the United States itself disagree about the role of government. A society will tend to judge another society by its own measuring stick. Learning Chinese history will give a person insight into the Chinese perspective. It’s a shame that Chinese people take the extremist opinions as being representative of American views, and that there are few constructive dialogs on the internet. Perhaps a blog should require passing a Chinese history test for posting privileges.

    I agree that a good place to start would be with a book on Chinese history, read with one’s opinions put aside. This would help one put news stories into context. Reading opposing opinion pieces can also be beneficial, but they should come from educated sources.

    I also see value in Mr. Kuo’s two other recommendations:

    1) Don’t condescend when talking to the Chinese on the internet, even if it means they are parroting the party line.
    This is difficult, because a person’s reaction to someone they think is brainwashed is to say, “Can’t you realize you’ve been brainwashed?” He took the words right out of my mouth when he said Americans think, “Why don’t you Chinese hate your government as much as I think you ought to?”

    2) Try to learn what Chinese people think when their defenses aren’t up, when foreigners aren’t a party to the conversation. This is useful advice. We’d probably all like to know what others are thinking when we aren’t pushing their buttons. The Chinese people may disagree with their government more than say to Americans. Nationalism is likely to be enhanced when talking to outsiders. They may disagree with their government to some extent, but may stand with their state in the discussion.

    “Battling the Information Barbarians” also mentions how many Americans think about Chinese internet censorship. While reading about how the Chinese government says to its people that censorship is necessary to promote Chinese culture, I had a reaction that would probably be common among many Americans: “B.S.” flashed in my head. Although one could say that my reaction is due to a feeling of universality of American Culture, my thought was that a government should not tell its people what their culture is. The article says, “The question, then, for Western companies, as much as for Western governments, is to decide whose side they are on: the Chinese officials who like to define their culture in a paternalistic, authoritarian way, or the large number of Chinese who have their own ideas about freedom.” How large is the number of Chinese who have their own ideas about freedom? I’d like to see a survey of Chinese people on this, but the Chinese government doesn’t.

  30. Daniel Fleek says:

    The article was a good background to the presentation. First I did not know but thought it was interesting that all Chinese school children learn that China has been humiliated by foreign powers and that communism is the only way that the Chinese can avoid such humiliation. In a way, the Chinese were humiliated such as during the Opium war and world war 2. However, I think this is a bad policy by the Chinese government if they want to continue their successful business campaigns with the rest of the world. In fact, it makes sense that this kind of beginning to a child’s education would lead to hostile views of the world and America causing them to think that America are attacking Chinese culture when the media publishes articles on the Chinese government or human rights issues. However, I believe this is partially the governments plan all along.

    For being a long presentation, I thought Kaiser Kuo had great insight into the reasons why Chinese and Americans view each other the way they do. First off, he pointed out a few things that I did not know about the Chinese internet. For example, I was unaware that Chinese internet has been more specifically used for entertainment purposes than for information. In fact, Kuo even makes it a point to say that the Chinese people are able to stay up to date on entertainment news like music. I also did not really know to what extent the Chinese people were being censored. In fact, I was really surprised that Chinese people were able to criticize their own government online and that the government would often listen to these demands if enough people were expressing a certain view. Also, although their are many sites that are censored, I was surprised to learn that it was possible for Chinese people to communicate with the world using internet. This I felt was one of the most interesting parts of the talk. The internet battles that ensue between Americans and Chinese over different views on such matters like human rights and the environment show that each sides citizens need to understand more about the background of why they believe the way they do. In fact to back this up, Kuo makes a mock example of an American criticizing a Chinese person by saying “why don’t you chinese hate the govnt as much i think u out to” which I thought was a pretty accurate view of most Americans. However, it is interesting that even with these internet clashes, when meeting in person, the meetings between the two sides are usually civil. In all, I thought Kuo was a good candidate to speak on this subject because of his background and I liked that he ended his speech by listing both common and non-common characteristics between Chinese and Americans that he likes and doesn’t like.

  31. Grant says:

    There was a lot of helpful information so it is hard to know where to start. I appreciated him sharing the common dysfunctions and strengths that both countries have. There is so much on which we differ, that it is good to identify some common ground.
    He makes an interesting point as to how maddening it is to the Chinese to see Americans look at China and condescend the media bias through which the Chinese must function, all the while the American believes he is operating in total objective truth from his own media. It would be the American who was operating out of ignorance when he believes he has a monopoly on the truth, when he is more deceived than the Chinese who knows their media is biased and has an agenda.
    It is interesting to observe a nation that has never before had a society in which the individual could express a voice sort of come of age, and learn how to do so in a health way. The leadership’s concern that they won’t do so in a healthy way, and it explodes into something ugly, is arguably justified. Or at least it is justified based on their vision of a unified China.
    It seems there is a cultural difference that is of huge significance. Westerners largely see themselves as primarily individuals and secondarily as members of a larger community, whereas Chinese have historically seem their primary role as a member of society, with little focus on the individual. This would explain why they don’t give so much attention to issues as human rights violations, but do give a lot of attention to national successes, like the olympics, national unity, city building, etc. But the internet is changing that. The internet is letting people have an individual voice, and that is a considerable threat to a regime that doesn’t value the individual, but places incredible value on the whole. In China, the whole is worth far more than the sum of the parts, to a greater degree than in the west. This was evidenced by Kuo’s comments about how every government official, from the top to the bottom, is afraid of public sentiment.
    I look forward to being able to see the effects of this paradigm during our visit.

  32. Jeffrey Brown says:

    A very powerful and thought provoking talk. What really stuck out to me was the comparison of how the Americans view the Chinese and how the Chinese view the Americans – in many ways we both see each other in the worst possible light. It does not seem like it would be simple for us to find something in common, but I think that is ultimately what it will have to come down to in order to properly see each other correctly.

    In regards to the WSJ article, I have to wonder what the situation would be like were the shoe on the other foot. What if there was a major Chinese company that provided a major product or service to us (say, for instance, a major television manufacturer) that refused to provide any more products to us because of something our government was doing to restrict usage of the product. What would happen within our country? What if the Chinese insisted that we get rid of the media that is “brainwashing” us or else we won’t be provided with any more televisions?

    My first instinct on this matter is that what Google is doing is right and that the Chinese should not be restricted on what they view on the internet, but that is coming from a Western point of view. In retrospect the Chinese may be correct, some Western people are brainwashed by what they see in the media. We need to understand where each other is coming from (develop that common ground) and as Kaiser said, learn of each other’s history to find out how we got the way we are before we make our judgements.

  33. Fred S. says:

    I thought that Kaiser suggested some good ways to have constructive dialogue with the Chinese. It is important to understand where the other side is coming from. Taking the time to understand the other side is something that many westerners rarely do before enacting judgment of the Chinese. It is especially the “rednecks” that shout the loudest and do not take the time to understand the other side who cast the most negative light on westerners and reinforce the Chinese view of offensive Americans. It can be seen from the Wall Street Journal article that this has been a recurring theme throughout history. The foreigners from the west have been seen as offensive and a threat to Chinese morals and unity under a patriarchal government.

    It was interesting to hear Kaiser mention some of the views that the Chinese hold of their own censorship. Many of the Chinese believe, from their history, that a unified and moral society is the only society capable of creating great economic growth. It is also believed that, throughout history, western influences were the causes that broke up unity in China. Since there is no Chinese citizen does not agree that economic growth is of the upmost importance, there are many that agree with the government’s efforts to defend unity amongst its citizens. This effort to defend their culture and nation is why many “redcoats” lash back at the rednecks. Both sides are guilty of not fully understanding each other.

    I hope that people will take the time to understand the other instead of promoting their own firewalls of self-interest. Kaiser seems well qualified to bridge the gap between eastern and western thinking. His book sounds like it will be a good read.

  34. Charles Dornbush says:

    I think this post offered some great insights into how the Chinese Internet works. The posts about the Opium Wars give us some historical context into why China might be resistant to Western ideas. This helps us understand Kaiser Kuo’s lecture on why the Chinese internet is not useless like Americans tend to believe. Indeed the Chinese web is different, as Kuo points out, it is more entertainment than information. Chinese disregard for American law has allowed for free viewing and copying of copyrighted materials. I think if I could get TV shows and movies for free that easily, I might spend more of my web time for entertainment as well.

    I also thought it was powerful that Kuo observes that both Americans and Chinese view each other in the worst light. And of course the worst of the worst Americans are often found trolling the Internet. This doesn’t bode well for how we are perceived in China.

    It will be interesting to see how the Internet evolves in China and how Chinese culture evolves around the Internet. The web allows content to be broadcast instantly to millions of people. It’s no wonder why the CCP wants to keep a lid on free use, any incident in any corner of China might become a rally cry for reform. The bottom line is that there is plenty of reason for the Chinese government to control the Internet and not much for Americans to do but complain about it.

  35. Ashley Tyra says:

    Both the article and lecture provide insights into the mindset of the Chinese that I hadn’t thought about before. Chinese authorities believe access to information leads to social instability. Social stability is the basis for economic development, so they will go to great lengths to protect such development.

    Kaiser Kuo explains a few key differences in the way the Chinese view the internet. For the Chinese, the internet is more of an entertainment superhighway rather than an information superhighway. The Chinese word for “netizen” has an implicit sense of citizenship or belonging to a political community. Perhaps citizens of China incorporate this sense of the internet as a place where they can belong into their definition of a “netizen.” It seems as though Americans use the internet as more of a tool and less of a place to belong. Either way, Kuo suggests three steps for successful interaction with the Chinese on the internet:

    Step 1: Don’t condescend.
    Step 2: Try and learn what Chinese people actually think when their defenses aren’t up.
    Step 3: Read some relevant history.

    The approach of olympic games provided a catalyst for communication among individuals from China and America. Each side seemed well prepared to believe the worst about each other. Each side would have benefitted from the three steps Kuo suggested. As Americans, we need to remember that false assumptions exist – for example, the assumption that Chinese people we encounter are hobbled because they live behind the great firewall of China. To end on a light note – we also need to remember that when Chinese Americans such as Kuo see American tourists and Chinese tourists in Europe “[he] is equally embarrassed by both.”

  36. Georgia says:

    Kuo started with his belief that, “the bilateral relationship between China and the United States is and will continue to be the most important that we will face in the rest of our lives.” I think this is very true. Our relationship can shape the future regarding prices and environmental regulations.

    He pointed out that many Chinese believe that if they let other countries in that chaos will break out. Half of the Chinese people living today have memories of periods of chaos. This transforms people to act in a different way. It reminds me of America after WWI. We became very isolated and we had to be pushed into fighting WWII. But the difference is that our “threats” were external while China’s are internal.

    The Internet has allowed China a public sphere where opinions can be shared. We have come so far from information traveling at the speed of a horse. It is great that the internet can be used to keep people in check. It is a vehicle for immediate discussion, but it can also facilitate a spiral of dissent which can lead to public outcry. I think it is easy to point fingers and place all the blame on someone else. But this does not make the problem go away. Constructive dialogue is needed in order to bridge gaps and bring people together.
    I liked Kuo’s three points:
    1. Don’t condescend, don’t act like they are ignorant or brainwashed. It doesn’t advance anything.
    2.Try and learn what Chinese people think when their defenses aren’t up. Just listen without judging. I like how he said that radicals are not representative of all in China, just the same as in America. I would shutter if a Chinese person believed that a racist, bigoted person was an average American.
    3. Read some relevant history. So important! China is a country that has deep roots that are visible today.
    I liked his discussion on being multicultural. It brought out the fact that both America and China have moments to be proud of and moments to be disgraced by. Neither country is perfect and it is important to keep this in mind, instead of just judging the wrong.

  37. Keith Cody says:

    Kuo makes his best points when he rhetorically asks “Why don’t you hate your government as much as I (westerner) do?” I can imagine the average Chinese person feels the same way. Why don’t you hate the American government as much as I (Chinese) think you should. All governments do things that people don’t understand. Kuo sweeps this under rug at 51:00, when he says discussing state actors is for another time and another talk.

    Kuo worries about what will happen the next time Chinese are attacked but he doesn’t mention that the Chinese embassy was attacked by suicide bombers in Iraq? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RCw6XIQSsh4. Where was the uproar?

    I desperately wanted to enjoy this video. It’s easy to tell that this is the most meaty video we are asked to watch. Kaiser Kuo (mouth in Chinese) had a lot of important things to say. However, I found the video excruciating to watch. 1.5 hours of a long-winded speech, with nothing but the speaker sitting at podium is a horrible way to convey this knowledge. The 3 other long videos: “Locked Up”, the 3 Brits try to strike it Rich and “TankMan” were much more engaging to watch.

    The take away from this video is that your viewpoint comes from your world view. At 53 minutes in, Kuo gives his insights. 1) Don’t’ be condescending. 2) Try to learn about Chinese when their defenses are down and the foreigner is not present. And 3) Read some Chinese history.

    He also suggests reading Chinese blogs in Translation. This a good start. A better method would be to learn Chinese.

    He mentions that in the Q&A, he’ll give a lot of good sites to read Chinese translated blogs, but alas, the video doesn’t have the Q&A. I’ve written Kuo to see what some of these sites are. I’ll post if he responds.

  38. Keith Cody says:

    If you found the web player difficult to use, here’s a direct link to the mp4 video, you can download it. http://www.unl.edu/ucomm/ucomm/av/video/podcasts/20091008_ent_Kuo.mp4 and play it back in your preferred player.

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