China Scholar Stockholm Syndrome


A fascinating look at the screwed-up incentives for those who have devoted their lives to studying China, by an economist at Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. Even though they all know better, Western scholars of China "habitually please the Chinese Communist Party, sometimes consciously, and often unconsciously":

We talk about economic institutions and their development over time as if they were institutions in the West. "Price administration" regulations, central and local, abound, giving officials far-reaching powers to interfere in the price-setting process. Yet we accept official statistics that show 90% of all prices, by trading value, to be market-determined. We do not question the meaning of the Chinese word shichang, translated as "market," but presume it to be the same as in the West.

"We ask Western instead of China-relevant questions," says the author:

Article after article pores over the potential economic reasons for the increase in income inequality in China. We ignore the fact that of the 3,220 Chinese citizens with a personal wealth of 100 million yuan ($13 million) or more, 2, 932 are children of high-level cadres. Of the key positions in the five industrial sectors—finance, foreign trade, land development, large-scale engineering and securities—85% to 90% are held by children of high-level cadres.

But "what can make Western academics stop and think twice about who they have bedded down with?" After all:

We obviously know of the labor camps into which people disappear without judiciary review, of torture inflicted by the personnel of state "security" organs, and of the treatment of Falun Gong, but choose to move on with our sterilized research and teaching. We ignore that China's political system is responsible for 30 million dead from starvation in the Great Leap Forward, and 750,000 to 1.5 million murders during the Cultural Revolution.

Via A&L Daily

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  1. Or maybe we secretly agree that people like Falun Gong should be suppressed? They are batshit crazy after all.

    I have to confess that, even though I publicly detest the actions of the US government in Waco, TX, some years ago, actions for which Janet Reno should have been imprisoned for life, I privately am somewhat happy that a bunch of nut-cases are dead.

    China is a very corrupt country. If we are true to our love of personal freedom, we must despise China. But don’t some of us secretly, perhaps unconsciously, envy their repression of deviants such as Falun Gong? Or even those students in Tiananmen Square? They were a bunch of flaming liberals after all.

    I feel very dirty and guilty, but I do like order and predictability. It’s good for business.

  2. Going on record as not on board with Albionite’s comments. I’m not sure they were sincere, but just in case, I want everyone to see me walking away from the ‘happy people are dead’ business.

  3. China is my field of specialization, and I found the article to be interesting, and I agree in general, although I don’t think some of the conclusions he draws are completely supported by the evidence he pulls out. I don’t take such a dim view of the work that’s being produced, and I tend to think that the economic matters are more an example of people who already had underlying socialist sympathies being drawn into studying the last major Socialist society in the world. Selection bias can explain it as much as official repression. I also think that he understates the degree to which the Western governments are complicit in the soft-peddling of certain issues; Western investors and governments don’t want the sort of work done that will point out Chinese problems, because if they do then it’ll put them on the hook for serious social and economical problems, problems without easy answers that promise to make life very difficult for whomever winds up holding the bag. Now, it’s not right that it’s like that, but it’s also not fair to lay it entirely at the feet of the Chinese government. Both sides are getting benefit from the situation. Which is why it’s also very unfortunate; the Chinese system has some serious structural issues that stand in the way of it’s growth continuing indefinitely. Paying attention to them would be a good idea, given the degree to which our economy is dependent on Chinese goods.

    It’s also a problem that for the past 150 or so years, there haven’t been any really good options in terms of Chinese government; this became especially true after the Qing fell and the Republican Era took over; a bunch of crooks and gangsters, out for only their own benefit. In that atmosphere, when you look at the idealists in the Party’s early history, its hard not to cheer for them and against the (ostensibly) capitalist Nationalists. If one isn’t careful, that can easily continue into the Mao age, where its not warranted, so I guess in that sense he’s right.

    I wish I could stick around, but I have to go present my thesis at a conference. I’ll be interested to see how this thread shakes out.

  4. JasonL

    They were sincere. I am honestly ashamed of my attitude, and I’ll bet there are lots of other people who feel the same way.

    Intellectualy, I oppose the Chinese government’s abuse of Falun Gong. Emotionally, having met them in person, I sympathise with the Chinese government.

    In a larger context, I see this as a real test of liberal/libertarian-minded folk. It’s easy to say we’re in favour of lots of personal liberty, but it can be really hard to live next door to a freak. The temptation to have the freak arrested is…well…a great temptation.

    I’m NOT proud of the feeling. I just have to admit it. Maybe that’s a bad thing, but I think we’d be foolish to deny that there are some people/things/customs we’d rather do without.

  5. When I try to think of a transition away from communism that doesn’t involve the nomenclature seizing assets…

    It’s like trying to imagine a popular revolution in which nobody gets hurt.

    …which isn’t to say that abuses shouldn’t be criticized.

  6. Ah, lunch has arrived. A pretty little illegal Chinese immigrant who gets paid less than $3.00 a day waits at my door with $5.00 worth of food, for which I have been charged $18.00. I shall tease him, and tip him in cash, so that he can lie about the size of his tip to his slave-driver owner. Of course, he will tell the truth, because his culture has trained him to be a slave. He will beg me with his eyes to be set free.

  7. I sympathise with the Chinese government

    What did a Falun Gong ever do to you?! Hand you one too many flyers or something?

    China’s horrible human rights record, fudging of economic data, and concealment of the iron grip it still maintains over its “free” market economy never gave American manufacturers pause when shipping all their manufacturing over there – why should scholars be any different?

  8. Albionite, exactly what is it that makes you think they are batshit crazy? Please expand.

    I’ve seen them protesting with their signs and they do promote their “exercise” which seems to me like a variant of Tai Chi. I’m thinking there must be more to it than exercise. But I dunno. I’ve never seen any political from them other than don’t tread on me. But China seems to hate them. Maybe China is afraid Falun Gong will replace Tai Chi for morning exercise.

  9. Have you ever actually listened to them? What they believe in? They are batshit crazy.

    It is interesting to me that you mention Falun Gong, but you fail to reference the Branch Davidians, which were also mentioned in my original post. I hold hold that both are crazy. You focus your criticisms of me on only one. Perhaps an honest omission, or perhaps an anti-Christian-crazy bias?

    For me, all crazies are crazy. Will you not stand up for all of them?

  10. “For me, all crazies are crazy. Will you not stand up for all of them?”

    You should unless they are hurting someone or breaking the law. The Davidians didn’t deserve to have Janet Reno burn them alive but they did violate the gun laws and did get into a stand off with the police. They were hardly blamless. I have yet to see anything about the Fulon Gong that shows that they are anything but a bunch of harmless cranks. What have they done to deserve being imprisoned or harrassed much less killed?

  11. TrickyVic

    Honestly, now. If you know anything about them, then you know they are not just practicing “Tai Chi” (which is just stretching..sort of like yoga..just stretching..completely without any further meaning or use). They are nut cases.

  12. Then enlighten us Albionite. What are they doing that is so dangerous and justifies anything more than making fun of them for being kooks?

  13. Any details? Links?

    C’mon, we mock scientology on this board all the time, and it’s always entertaining. Surely you can do the same for Falun Gong, if they’re that batshit crazy.

  14. Um, I’ll stand up for all the crazies. The Branch Davidians were not hurting anyone, and my (very) limited experience with the Falun Gong seems to indicate the same. I may not want to join either group, but neither group has ever tried to convert me.
    Seems like libertarianism is largely about the freedom to believe crazy-ass ideas without repercussions. Especially since libertarianism is, largely, a crazy-ass idea. Sauce for the goose and all that.
    In fact, the idea that just because someone holds a crazy-ass idea they should be arrested (I know that is something of a misstatement of Albionite’s position) is itself a crazy-ass idea as far as I am concerned.

    Usual caveats about no initiation of force, compulsion to share in crazy ass idea, etc.

    Not sure if I need to drink.

  15. “Enlighten”?

    Sweet Jesus! OK, I give up. You people are silly. Please spend more than 30 minutes with one of these idiots before you say anything further. Really, they are Jim Jones times 10!

    The best thing going for the Beijing government is that it is atheist. Its economic and social ideas are stupid, but at least it is opposed to neo-hippie BS.

  16. jb

    No way! The burden of proof is on them, not me.

  17. The burden of proof is on them, not me.

    So, you’re not going to provide any specifics, are you? All we’re asking is how do they harm anybody.

  18. Correct me if I’m wrong, but the communist party didn’t give a rat’s ass about Falun Gong until its members started criticizing the government.

    …so when you say, we should “secretly agree that people like Falun Gong should be suppressed”, uh…no. In fact, I’ll go on the record as saying that Falun Gong and everyone else you deem “crazies” should be perfectly free to protest the government–not suppressed.

  19. There are plenty of people, perhaps a majority, who think libertarians are crazy.*

    Having observed that, I am certainly not willing to sympathize with any government that wants to hurt people they deem to be ‘insane’ or ‘socially dangerous elements’ in the words of the notorious Article 10 of the Soviet Legal Code.

    *[NOTE: No “Drink” credit here as this is not a “you will never get anywhere” comment, just an observation of the way many people feel about us.]**

    **Have a drink anyways.

  20. The Branch Davidians were not hurting anyone…

    Tell that to the twelve year girls who had his babies.

  21. de stijl

    Thanks for reminding us that the Branch Davidians were not a band of persecuted saints. There was a lot of evil stuff going on in that compound.

    However, that does not excuse their deaths at the hands of the government.

  22. Albonite,

    Falun Gong, whether batshit to the n’th degree or not, are hardly the only people to enjoy the gentle ministrations of the Chinese Gov’mint. In fact, the original article hardly metntions them. It does talk about a researcher from the University of Hong Kong – hopefully that’s normal enough for you – who was jailed because he asked impertinent questions (deemed such by the chinese government anyway).
    Though one of the weaknesses of the article is that it fails to mention at all the degree to which investors are willing to avert their eyes to abuses. Or in Yahoo’s case, to actively collaborate.

  23. Aresen – agreed

    However, you can think of times when Wac(k)o is used either to condemn the BDs or the gov’t. The BDs were scumbags, but the gov’t abused its power something fierce.

    Imus said a bunch of racist shit and the market is kicking the crap out of him. Just cuz he turned to some hypocritical vultures sans credibility doesn’t change that fact.

    Two sides. Both broke the law in Wac(k)o. The fact that they were relentless assholes doesn’t mitigate the gov’t’s abuses. The fact that Reno is a scumbag doesn’t hide the scumbagishness of the BDs.

    It’s like an evil kitten of despair chasing its own tail. Round and round in the widening gyre!

    The falcon does not return to the falconer. The center cannot hold. Things fall apart.

    Back to China – do they have good take out there?

    [runs off]

  24. “Tell that to the twelve year girls who had his babies.”

    I’ve never been a twelve year old girl, but I suspect that if I had been, and if I had been asked, I would rather have had Koresh’s babies than be burnt alive for my own protection.

    With the exception of the children in that compound, everyone was there because they chose to be, and children don’t get choices anyway.

  25. The temptation to have the freak arrested is…well…a great temptation.

    Only if the freak is blasting death metal through the walls way louder than any human needs to hear it. Then he should be arrested. And water-boarded. Then castrated so he cannot reproduce.

    Don’t worry, caveman in #211. This isn’t about you.

  26. Fulan Gong is banned in China for the same reason they ban independent labor unions and have only one political party. In an authoritarian state, any group which might makes its members more loyal to that group than to the state is a threat. Its not so much because Fulan Gong believes crazy ideas–its because they were able to organize thousands of people right under the governments nose.

  27. VM

    Quoting T.S. Eliot is punishable by 20 years forced labor or 1 year reading “The Wasteland”, whichever causes you to suffer most.

    Those are very lenient sentencing guidelines, considering the gravity of the offence.

  28. Aresen,

    Does he get off scott-free for quoting Yeats?

  29. “Does he get off scott-free for quoting Yeats?”

    No, but the sentence can be served concurrently by listening to CBC Artsworld while one works or reads.

    Ferlingetti, however, rates impalement.

  30. bin gar kein Russe. Stamm aus Litauen. Echt Deutsch.

    I have seen the eternal Footman take my coat and snicker. And in short I was afraid.

    No I am not Prince Hamlet nor was meant to be…

    (that part – the prince hamlet – I used as my answering machine message. That and the “hello?…. [pause] hello? just kidding!”)

  31. d’on — Aresen — your special punishment skills are needed


    Apparently ISD broke teh Intertubez

  32. Quoting T.S. Eliot is punishable by 20 years forced labor or 1 year reading “The Wasteland”…

    Methinks someone was slouching in their Eng. Lit. class…

  33. Chucklehead,

    Slouching towards Bethlehem perhaps?

  34. I find it odd that a China scholar would confuse the current rulers of China with the Maoists. Does he think of the Gang of Four purge was minor scandal? To my mind it was a coup, though a low-key one.

    I’ll be the first to line up when the administrator’s of Mao’s tomb start selling tickets for peeing on the late great shithead, but this hasn’t been a Maoist state since 1976. It hasn’t been Galt’s Gulch by a long shot, either, but viewing modern China through the prism of the Cultural Revolution seems strange to me.

  35. “””Honestly, now. If you know anything about them, then you know they are not just practicing “Tai Chi” (which is just stretching..sort of like yoga..just stretching..completely without any further meaning or use). They are nut cases.”””

    I don’t know anything about them other than their exercise. That’s why I asked you to expand. You seem to know a fair amount about them since you hold such an opinion. I am curious what you know that makes them crazy.

    You have made the claim that they are batshit crazy. When you make a claim the burden of proof would be on you. It’s not their job to prove your argument.

  36. “Methinks someone was slouching in their Eng. Lit. class…”

    For 20th Century British Lit, guilty as charged. Same goes for 20th Century American Poets.

    Mercifully, I have forgotten most of it.

    Give me Fielding, Austen, Swift, Dickens, Twain, Hawthorne, Smollett, Defoe, Stevenson, Shakespeare, Goldsmith, Pope, Shelley, Keats, even Chaucer rather than the stuff that was passed off as ‘literature’ in the 20th Century. Even Thackery was more enjoyable.

  37. On Falun Gong:

    I’ve read some of Li Hongzhi’s works; it’s a mishmash of Buddhism, Taoism, alchemy, UFOlogy, and other New Age ideas; I went to one of their Qigong classes, it wasn’t really any weirder than anything the woman behind the counter at the local crystal and candle shop would sell you… Yeah, they’re crazy. But they’re no crazier than many of the sects that posters on this forum probably have close friends who are members of: they’re no nuttier than Wiccans, Thelemites, Urantians, Mormons, Scientologists (though CONSIDERABLY cheaper), etc…

    … in other words, harmless nutters, unlike the CCP, who are very dangerous nutters who are responsible for the deaths and oppression of millions.

    So, frankly Albion, fuck you and the horse you rode in on.

    Oh, and I love their Epoch Times, even if they have a strong bias against Lee Kwan Yew. I frequently read it on my rides home.

  38. PMS

    I do not know anything about Falun Gong, and I agree with you that one should not condone evil against those who have done no wrong.

    However, being human, we have all had the URGE to “push someone in front of the bus” from time to time. All of us have “got a little list, they’d none of them be missed.” An urge is not equivalent to an action.

  39. “However, being human, we have all had the URGE to “push someone in front of the bus” from time to time. ”

    And, dear sir, there are those who walk in front of the bus, voluntarily


  40. Aresen:

    Okay, true enough. Though I usually reserve the spots on that list for the obnoxious gutterpunks who think they’re entitled to my money, not people who are being persecuted by the CCP. And, come to think of it, most of those gutterpunks hang out right next to the light rail tracks…

  41. VM

    Thanks. I needed that laugh.


    While I wouldn’t actually PUSH, I might be a little slow in shouting a warning in some cases.

    “Oh, ahh, er..”


    “Oh, dear me.”

    For said gutterpunks, it is especially satisfying if they are the type who keep telling us we’ve got to ‘get out of our cars and use public transit.’

  42. Aresen:

    Well, in my case, I’m a user of said public transit (I own an excellent car, but, as I’ve gone from being a well-paid low level executive to being an unemployed graduate student, I can’t afford to park it in downtown Portland every day). It’s precisely because I use said public transit that I can’t give my $@#% change to a bunch of obnoxious kids; I need it to ride the friggin train!

    But yes, there are certainly days when I’d love to see some of them pasted to the front of the Blue Line MAX. Then I can smirk and get back to reading my free copy of the Epoch Times.


  43. Postmodern

    I walk to work myself, but that’s because I have a condo near the center.

    I could take the bus out to the barn after work, but it runs only once an hour* after 6 PM and takes an hour each way vs a 15 minute drive.

    *The passenger load doesn’t even justify that frequency.

  44. Well, Scientology is probably responsible for at least one death, so I don’t consider them harmless nutters… But I don’t know if Falun Gong places any medical restrictions on its adherents – if so, then I’ll agree it’s a dangerous cult.

  45. Does anyone else find the irony in claiming that Falun Gong is crazier than Maoism?

  46. So? Sounds like they called this one about right.

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