The Global Times and Ai Weiwei [《环球时报》中外编辑之间关于艾未未的对话]

The Global Times and Ai Weiwei [《环球时报》中外编辑之间关于艾未未的对话]

Nine days ago, Hu Xijin, the editor in chief of The Global Times, assembled all of the Chinese staff into the paper’s large conference room and shut the door. As is nearly always the case with such meetings, the expats, known as “foreign experts,” were not permitted inside.

Hu had a direct and simple order for his shock troops staff: They were to go to their desks and seek out any Chinese comment threads, any discussions on Chinese BBS’s and portals and blogs — any discussion on the Internet at all — about the detention of Ai Weiwei and counter them with the party line, as expressed so clearly and ominously in a recent Global Times editorial, namely that Ai Weiwei is a self-appointed maverick who deserves to be detained, and who is being used by hostile Western powers to embarrass, hurt and destabilize China. This was not a request, it was a direct order. It was compulsory.

This tells us quite clearly how determined the party is to get its message out about Ai Weiwei, even if it’s in gross violation of journalist ethics, if not downright sleazy. It adds a whole new dimension to the concept of the 50-center.

I’ve avoided Ai Weiwei, mainly because I’m on vacation and my Internet connections have been remarkably dodgy, which I attribute to Ai Weiwei, or at least to what he stands for. The CCP has to stifle voices of dissent when it feels vulnerable, and the Internet is always the first place they clamp down.

I’m sitting in a hotel in Nanjing and will try to make this a brief post, although I am brimming with thoughts on the topic.

The Global Times showed its truest and most sinister colors with a now infamous editorial warning that Ai Weiwei was about to hit a “red line,” and if//when he does he is asking for trouble. This was a not-so-veiled threat to all Chinese activists. The CCP is on the march, my friends. They’re kicking butt and taking names, and they’re coming for you.

It is reckless collision against China’s basic political framework and ignorance of China’s judicial sovereignty to exaggerate a specific case in China and attack China with fierce comments before finding out the truth. The West’s behavior aims at disrupting the attention of Chinese society and attempts to modify the value system of the Chinese people.

Ai Weiwei likes to do something “others dare not do.” He has been close to the red line of Chinese law. Objectively speaking, Chinese society does not have much experience in dealing with such persons. However, as long as Ai Weiwei continuously marches forward, he will inevitably touch the red line one day.

The West ignored the complexity of China’s running judicial environment and the characteristics of Ai Weiwei’s individual behavior. They simply described it as China’s “human rights suppression.” “Human rights” have really become the paint of Western politicians and the media, with which they are wiping off the fact in this world.

This is disturbing on so many levels I don’t think I need to drill down. It speaks for itself. It’s nauseating.

Instead, I’d like to talk about a meeting i had with a senior editor of the GT just 48 hours ago. She is urbane, sophisticated, educated, talented and a truly wonderful person. She also epitomizes the archetype of the sophisticated, urbane, educated Chinese who insist on toeing the Party line at all costs. I believe — I know — that this is completely sincere. But it’s also quite frustrating. “Getting through” to such a person, especially when it’s a good friend you admire, is infinitely frustrating when they seem to put up seamless, airtight mental barriers that you simply cannot break through.

I paraphrase, but with accuracy:

“Why doesn’t the West see that we do things our way in China? We have 1.3 billion people, all those mouths to feed and to protect through a harmonious society. You don’t have this situation. You are developed and your populations are small. Human rights doesn’t mean to the West what it means in China. Most Chinese support Ai Weiwei’s detention. They support Liu Xiaobo’s detention. He is a criminal trying to impose Western-style government on a society that doesn’t want it. Why won’t the West understand how humiliating it was to award the Nobel Prize to someone we put in jail, a man who is a criminal to the Chinese? How should we feel? How should we react?”

This led to a very long conversation — over an hour — in which I explained that if only China would actually engage in a dialog about these issues with the outside world instead of sabre-rattling and always sounding like a misunderstood and petulant child, maybe then China would advance its cause and help people outside China understand what China is really all about, how human rights are seen through Chinese eyes.

I specifically pointed to the Ai Weiwei editiorial.

“Don’t you realize the entire expat community here in Beijing and many others around the world are buzzing about this editorial, shocked at its belligerence, its snide and strident tone, its implied threats and its undercurrent of violence? Maybe, as you keep saying, the West truly doesn’t understand China. Well, you are focusing now on soft power. The Global Times itself is actually an outgrowth of China’s thirst for soft power, for global reputation and respect. And look at how you’re failing. You are driving away foreign talent and making China look worse, not better — in precise contradiction to the paper’s stated goals. If your media and leaders could articulate China’s point of view as clearly and calmly as you just did in this conversation maybe then China could get somewhere in fostering understanding. But railing against Ai Weiwei at the top of your lungs — a man seen as an artist and a celebrity — is exactly what you should not be doing. Why not throw the West a bone and let him go, declare an amnesty and then explain why he was detained in the first place.”

This evoked quite a response.

“Let Ai Weiwei go? But Richard, how can we do that? How can China admit to the world it is being defeated, it is bowing to international pressure and not doing what is right for China? How can we humilate ourselves like that?”

I said it’s been done before (look at North Korea surrendering reporter “spies” after Bill Clinton paid them a visit). In an instant, it would force a new dimension to the issue, and show China was willing to be less hysterical. And I said China appears hysterical, becoming increasingly strident, and that nothing demonstrates this more clearly than the direction the Global Times is taking.

This was, as I said, a long, polite and serious discussion. I never experienced anything quite like it before, because despite the mental barriers I referred, to, she genuinely wanted to hear my opinion and to learn how the West sees China, and I think she actually “got” that the GT, even if they’re right, is scaring people away and damaging its own cause with readers who are not Chinese. She actually said she wanted to discuss my argument with her superiors. (And no, I am not so vain or arrogant or naive as to believe my little talk will change the shape of Chinese journalism.)

All of this said, the detention of Ai Weiwei and many other activists who have the misfortune of being nameless and faceless to us is unpardonable, and self-defeating. I know, they were sending a message to the people of China, not to Americans 10,000 miles away. But again, they say they want soft power, they say they want to be a global superpower, they say they want fair treatment in the media. Well, sorry, but you can’t have it both ways. You can’t repress with one hand and paint a picture of a happy harmonious rules-following society with the other. Detaining Ai Weiwei was the worst thing you could have done, trumped only by your idiocy in attacking him in savage, ugly, deranged editorials.

Go out and do your thing, Global Times 50-centers. While a lot of people will be fooled, enough will see through the propaganda. I admire the young aspiring journalists I worked with there two years ago. If any of you are reading this (which is not very likely), I urge you to think for yourselves, and understand that while journalists have several roles, astroturfing message boards isn’t one of them.

I am delighted to read that the GT editorial has sparked “scorn and ridicule” among much of China’s Twitterati and social media users. I am glad to make my small contribution to this much-deserved scorn and ridicule.

Update: Be sure to see Lisa’s post that has a lot to say on this topic. And sorry for all the typos in the first version of this post. I never wrote a post this fast.

Update 2: Please be sure to see James Fallows’ new post on this topic, which kindly cites my own post.

Looks like my post has been translated into Chinese.

http://www.pekingduck.org/2011/04/the-global-times-and-ai-weiwei/

译者 Yizhe  •  2011/4/14  •  译者  •  公開

《环球时报》中外编辑之间关于艾未未的对话

核心提示:《环球时报》前外籍编辑与中国编辑之间,就艾未未、软实力和《环球时报》社论等话题的不同观点。

来源:http://www.pekingduck.org/2011/04/the-global-times-and-ai-weiwei/

作者:理查德・伯格(Richard Burger)

发表时间:2011年4月13日

译者:南山

九天前,《环球时报》总编辑胡锡进召集起报社里所有中方工作人员,到大会议室里闭门开会。基本上每次开这种会的时候,外籍人士——也被称为“外国专家”——是不允许在场参加的。

胡锡进对他手下的得力干将员工只有一条直截了当的命令:他们回去之后要四处寻找关于艾未未被关押一事的所有中文评论,包括在中国各个论坛和门户网站以及博客上的讨论——总而言之,找出互联网上的一切有关讨论,然后按照党的路线对其加以批驳,就像《环球时报》的社论最近悍然所做的那样。也就是说,要把艾未未描述为一个自封的独行侠、一个被西方敌对势力利用来刁难、伤害和破坏中国的人,他活该被拘留。这不是一个要求,而是一个直接的命令,没有任何商量余地。

这种行为十分清楚地告诉我们,党想要传达出在艾未未问题上的立场这种决心有多大。即使这样做是对新闻职业道德的严重侵犯——简直可以说是毫无羞耻——也在所不惜。它把五毛党的概念提升到了一个全新的层面。

我前些天一直没有谈起过艾未未。这主要是因为我当时在休假,而且我的互联网连接时断时续。——这也是拜艾未未,或至少是拜他所代表的立场所赐:每当中共感到脆弱的时候,它都会去扼杀异议的声音。而互联网总是他们第一个打击的对象。

我现在正坐在南京的一家酒店里。我将尽量把这个帖子写得简短一点,尽管我在这个问题上有很多的想法要说。

当《环球时报》发表那篇现在已经臭名昭著的社论时,它表现出了自己最真实、也是最险恶的本来面目。在那篇社论里,它警告说艾未未就要撞上“红线”了。假如他一意孤行,那就是自找麻烦。对于所有中国的活动家们来说,这是一个赤裸裸的威胁:伙计们,中共要动手了。他们在拨草寻蛇、在整理名单。他们就是冲着你来的。

在没搞清楚真相的情况下,就将中国司法的一个具体案例上纲上线,并用激烈的评论攻击中国,这是对中国基本政治框架的轻率冲撞,也是对中国司法主权的无视。西方这样做,是故意…扰乱中国社会的注意力,并试图修改中国公众的价值体系。

艾未未喜欢我行我素,经常干“别人不敢干”的事…他很多时候离中国法律的红线不远…客观说,在如何对待他这样的人的问题上,中国社会的经验并不多…但只要艾未未不断“往前冲”,他有一天“触线”是很可能的事。

西方在无视中国司法运行的复杂环境,也无视艾未未个人行为的复杂特点…用一句简单的政治口号说成是中国的“人权恶化”。“人权”真成了西方政客和媒体手里拎的一桶漆,见什么抹什么,他们在抹掉这个世界各种细致的分辨率。

这些话表露出如此多的令人不安的层面,根本不需要我一一揭示。它本身就已经说得很清楚了,简直令人作呕。

这里我想说的,倒是在两天前我跟一名《环球时报》资深编辑之间的交谈。她是位文雅、成熟、有教养、有天赋而且很出色的人。同时她也是那种典型的集成熟、文雅、有教养于一身,而又不惜一切代价坚持党的路线的中国人。我相信——我也知道——她这么做是完全真心实意的。而这也正是令人沮丧之处。要让这样的人理解你的观点——特别是当她是一个你所尊敬的好朋友、而且还在心里竖起一座严丝合缝、密不透风的心理屏障,让你根本就无法突破时——是件非常令人沮丧的事情。

下面这段对话虽然不是我们当时的原话,但意思是一模一样的:

“为什么西方就是不明白,在中国我们要按自己的方式来做事情呢?我们有13亿人,所有这些人都要通过和谐的社会来养活与保护。你们没有这种情况。你们是发达国家,人口很少。人权在中国,跟西方人对它的理解不一样。大多数中国人支持把艾未未关起来。他们也支持把刘晓波关起来。他是一名罪犯,试图把西方式的政府强加在一个不想要它的社会头上。为什么西方不理解,把诺贝尔奖授予一名关在我们监狱中的人,一名在中国人看来是罪犯的人,是多么令我们感到屈辱呢?你说我们该是什么感觉?我们该有什么反应?”

这引起了一番很长的对话——长达一个多小时。在对话中我解释说,如果中国真的能就这些问题跟外界展开对话,而不是张牙舞爪、始终像一个被误解和任性的孩子那样讲话,那么中国很可能会推进其事业,帮助中国以外的人们了解中国的真正意思、了解在中国人眼里人权是什么。

我特别提到关于艾未未的那篇社论。

“难道你没意识到,整个在北京的外籍人士圈,还有世界各地其他许多人都在议论这篇社论,而且都被它那好战、卑鄙和刺耳的音调,还有它那隐含的威胁和暴力意味所震惊吗?也许,正如你一直在说的,西方真的不了解中国。不过,你们现在强调软实力。《环球时报》本身实际上就是中国渴望展示软实力、渴望得到全球声誉和尊重的一个产物。可是你看看你们现在做得是多么失败。你们这样是在赶跑外国的人才,让中国看起来更糟,而不是更好——恰好跟贵报社的既定目标背道而驰。如果你们的媒体和领导人能够象你刚才在谈话时那样,明确而又平静地阐明中国的观点,那么中国也许可以在促进理解方面取得一些进展。但扯着嗓门咒骂艾未未——在外人眼里他是一位艺术家兼名人——恰恰是你们最不应该做的事情。还不如给西方施舍一点恩惠,把他放了,宣布大赦,然后解释清楚当初为什么会拘捕他。”

这番话引起了激烈反应。

“把艾未未放了?理查德,我们怎么可能这么做呢?中国怎么可能向世界承认自己被打败了、承认中国迫于国际压力而不去做自己认为正确的事呢?我们怎么可能这样自取其辱呢?”

我说,这种事以前也有先例(看看在克林顿访问朝鲜之后,朝鲜是怎么交出那些记者“间谍”的)。如果中国肯这样做,它会立刻使这个问题出现一个新的转机,表明中国愿意变得不那么歇斯底里。我说中国现在看起来歇斯底里,腔调变得越来越刺耳。《环球时报》的走向就是一个最好的例子。

正如我所说,这是一次长时间的、礼貌而又认真的讨论。我以前从没有经历过这样的事情,因为尽管我之前提到过精神屏障,但她真的想听到我的意见,想了解西方到底是如何看待中国的。我觉得她其实明白,即使《环球时报》是对的,他们也是在把外人吓跑、在非华人读者中自毁前程。她居然说她打算与她的上司谈一下我的观点。(不,我还没有傲慢、自大或天真到相信我的一番话会改变中国新闻业的现状。)

话说回来,对艾未未和其他许多不幸而默默无闻的活动分子的关押,是件不可原谅而弄巧成拙的事情。我知道,他们是想给中国人民、而不是万里之外的美国人传递一个信息。然而,他们又说他们想要软实力,说他们想成为一个全球性超级大国,说他们希望在媒体上得到公平待遇。对不起,但这是不可能两者兼得的事情:你不可能一只手在镇压,而另一只手画出一个快乐和谐循规蹈矩的社会画面。关押艾未未是你可以做的最糟糕的事情——哦,我忘了还有“用野蛮、丑陋、疯狂的社论来攻击他”这种白痴行为。

《环球时报》的五毛党们,随便你们怎么去干吧。虽然很多人会被愚弄,但也有足够多的人能看穿这些宣传伎俩。我很欣赏两年前我在那里工作时的那些年轻而有抱负的记者。如果你们有人正在阅读这篇文字(尽管这不太可能),我劝你们为自己想想。要知道,虽然记者可以担当多种角色,但在BBS上发些五毛帖子可不是其中之一。

我很高兴地读到《环球时报》的社论在中国的推友和社交媒体用户之中引起了广泛“蔑视与嘲笑”的消息。我很高兴能在这么多恰如其分的蔑视和嘲笑中,尽我一点微薄的贡献。

更新:请一定去读读莉萨的帖子,里面关于这个话题说了很多。我还要为本帖第一版中的所有错别字而道歉。我以前写帖子从来没这么快过。

更新2:请一定要看到詹姆斯・法洛斯关于这个话题的新帖子。也谢谢他好心引用了我自己的文字。

https://profiles.google.com/u/0/112159996886118284643/posts/U77jCAtuSNC#112159996886118284643/posts/U77jCAtuSNC

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