The Guardian on China

Oh, the horseshit one reads in The Guardian sometimes. I’m accustomed to disagreeing with the majority of their columnists these days and I’ve long found their editorial stance antithetical to my own on many issues. But I can’t recall seeing such a blatant example of editorialisation in one of their news stories as this one today, concerning the arrival of Hu Jintao, the Chinese president, to the USA for a four day state visit. Perhaps I’m wrong, perhaps this is an opinion piece – but it isn’t marked as such. I have only read this online but it looks like it would form part of their overall news coverage of the event, perhaps even as a front page piece.

There were two standout segments for me. Firstly this little peach:

In the aftermath of the Iraq invasion and the global economic recession, the US democratic-capitalist model no longer appears to be such an inevitable global template.

Really? That’s a bold and sweeping statement to make. Who thinks this exactly? The authors, clearly. And, I suspect, a fair few of the paper’s staff and readers, but that’s someway short of being the collective view of the entire world. I love the way they have conflated two entirely unrelated events to make their point, which seems to be: the US model is in decline – yay!

Then another beauty:

China’s inferiority in “hard power”, meanwhile, has turned to Beijing’s advantage. It is benefiting from being the country that did not invade Iraq, and is not currently bogged down in Afghanistan. After the Bush experiment in exporting democracy militarily, China’s mantra of non-interference in the affairs of other states seems benign by comparison, particularly in the developing world, where Chinese “soft power” has expanded dramatically.

There’s Iraq again (and Afghanistan), chucked in for good effect. Good old China, eh? Stayed well away from those hot potatoes – for selfless reasons, no doubt, principled nation that it is. I’m sure their motives for non-involvement were pure. “Non-interference”? “Benign by comparison”? China? Amazing.

Yet again, a blatant train of thought that is anti-Western and anti-American leads The Guardian by the nose and to some absurd conclusions. Anyone with an IQ above 35 could quickly Google some of the actions of China of late (both internally and where it has projected its power beyond its borders) and deduce that it is far from being a “benign” force in the world. But, being The Guardian, it’s only bad when the USA exercises its influence.

I genuinely wonder why I continue to read or buy this paper anymore. Other than habit (coming up to twenty years of dipping in now) I think it must be only to see what lazy, half-arsed, blinkered nonsense passes for thought these days on the so-called ‘liberal left’.

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Centrist. Atlanticist. Dry liberal. Anti-totalitarian. Post-ideological pragmatist. Child of The Enlightenment. Toucan.

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5 comments on “The Guardian on China
  1. Dan Sumners says:

    This is clearly an opinion piece, not just fact transmission.In terms of the quote about the "US democratic-capitalist model", the authors go on to demonstrate why, ie the slow growth of the US economy compared to that of China, trade surplus/deficit etc. You have therefore demonstrated one of the bad habits of journalists yourself – selective quotation.In terms of the reference to Iraq, I think they're trying to say that the US model includes the idea that it – and other capitalist, democratic, 'right thinking' nations – has the right to be a global police officer, and the invasion of Iraq threw this starkly into relief. Added to China’s non-involvement, and its ability to therefore claim to be ‘better’ than those that were involved, regardless of its own record, makes the invasion of Iraq relevant.In any case, all they are saying is that the US model no longer appears to be inevitable, as it once did. This is what I would take issue with; I would ask, when did it ever appear inevitable? To me, such a statement is ridiculous, ie that the present tells us anything about the possibilities for the future. But the answer would be that for the past 60 years many people have believed that it was inevitablr; see ‘The End of History and the Last Man’ by Fukuyama.China has clearly benefited around the world, especially in poorer countries, from being a world power whose approach contrasts with that of the US and the west in general. Whatever you or I feel about China's motives for non-involvement, or its actions elsewhere, their financial benevolence and conspicuous non-involvement in state intervention has had an impact in countries whose population isn't as informed as liberal, middle class westerners (who themselves mainly listen to propaganda about China without doing any research for themselves). Such people may not have access to a free press but funders such as China will make damn sure they know where the money is coming from.As the piece says, and you yourself quote, “China's mantra of non-interference in the affairs of other states seems benign by comparison, particularly in the developing world, where Chinese "soft power" has expanded dramatically”. The important words there are ‘seems’ and ‘comparison’; the authors don’t say China is benign at all – just that it could appear to be so to those who are ill-informed about its other activity and are already angry with the US. The Iraq war has been reported around the world and even people without access to the media in general are likely to have heard about it, whereas even the population of the west remains dangerously ignorant of China’s actions.I think what your analysis shows is that you are so frustrated by the Guardian, and possibly the media in general, that your reason has been clouded. Join with me in simply giving up reading a paper and instead explore possibility outside of the confines of this mundane ‘reality’.

  2. ph says:

    The Guardian has not changed, the Liberal left has not changed – you have. I bet you are wondering why it has taken you so long!

  3. Citizen Sane says:

    Ah, Mr Sumners! Thank you for comment – I've never had a response longer than the actual blog itself before.Now then, to address some of your points.OK, so it is clearly an opinion piece. However, I would contend that it is dressed up in news' clothing: it's not in the comment section, the comments are not opened up to the readers, etc. It is relaying some facts but with subjective statements and conjecture thrown in for good measure.It wasn't my intention to quote selectively – I just wanted to highlight the two parts that, for me, stood out and that I took objection to.The reference to Iraq for example: the implication seems to be that China is somehow less morally tainted by remaining non-involved. They may not have been involved militarily, but they effectively financed the whole thing by taking enormous stakes in US government bonds. There is also much to suggest that it is China that is benefiting the most now that Iraq is finally establishing itself as a relatively stable nation, open for business. They have steered clear of the whole controversy yet will profit from it enormously. This is very cynical and hypocritical when they criticise the US for being the world policeman (and who else is going to take this role? Them? One day they will, then everyone who constantly criticises the USA might finally be happy, the fun will really begin), then sit back and profit from it. Also very clever of course.But the point is – they WERE involved and are now reaping the rewards. Little ventured, plenty gained.Meanwhile, where else is China projecting its "soft power" that the article references? How about Darfur where it actively bankrolled the most bloody civil war in recent memory, a conflict that made the events in Iraq look like a nice picnic on the beach? Or their affairs across the rest of Africa? Or Tibet? Taiwan? Or their continued lack of action with North Korea, where they are happy to tolerate a starving slave state on their borders as long as it means business as usual for them? Then of course there is the treatment of its own citizens who live in an anything goes, ruthless capitalist economy married with an authoritarian one party gerentocracy – the worst of both worlds. (And, I would hope, one doomed to fail under the weight of its own contradictions – an irony that would probably make Marx smirk. Fukuyama might yet be vindicated.)This was my problem with this article – it didn't mention any of this. Just a load of twaddle about China's influence being benign – to which I say: horseshit!So I don't think my judgment is clouded at all. I rarely find a voice in The Guardian that I can agree with and I do get frustrated by the party line of the paper but luckily there are plenty of other commentators, bloggers and publications that do talk sense.

  4. Citizen Sane says:

    Additional:There's loads of material out there, but I just stumbled upon this typically brilliant piece by Hitch from 2007 about the pernicious influence of China around the world and the way it uses its UN veto power to obstruct.Required reading… shame those Guardian journos didn't read it first before spouting bollocks about the 'soft touch' and 'benign' influence that China has in the developing world. Absolutely laughable. http://www.slate.com/id/2175047/

  5. Dan Sumners says:

    Again, the implication of the article is not "that China is somehow less morally tainted by remaining non-involved"; rather it explicitly states that it could SEEM so by COMPARISON, especially to certain people.What you are again doing, with eg the Darfur reference, is not thinking of what China's image may be in parts of the world where people only have access to state controlled media and see western states as exploitative etc.You say again that the article says China's influence is benign; if you read closely, it doesn't say anything of the sort.

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