Newmedia on Mon, 13 May 2013 16:02:33 +0200 (CEST)

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Re: <nettime> Digital Politics <--> Digital Economics

> I hate to sound like a cold warrior myself . . . 
Thanks for this illuminating RANT -- yes, you *do* seem to be trapped in  
the COLD WAR (so, can I help you to escape) . . . ?? <g>
My first trip to China was in 1997 and I have gone back many times  since.  
No "minders" and no limit on my ability to talk to the "man on the  street."
On my first trip, I was commonly approached by people as I rode a bike  
through the Beijing hutongs, especially kids, so that they could practice  
their English.  But, at that time, getting accurate information about where  
things -- like an art exhibit or even the National Library -- were located was 
a  challenge and many topics seemed off-limits.
On my more recent trips, it has been impossible to not be approached  
wherever I go by people (of all ages) who wanted to discuss everything --  
politics, economics, history etc. -- yes, once again to practice their English,  
which can cost them $100's for lessons.  Walking down the street, standing  
in line, going to a flea-market -- everyone wanted to talk!
In addition to the general economic development, my guess is the Internet  
has made a lot of difference both is in what people know and what they're  
interested in talking about (which tends to map onto topics you know 
something  about, so you won't be embarassed.)
Words like "democracy" are propaganda terms.  Of course the word  existed 
much earlier but it was *fundamentally* re-purposed in the 1950s in  order to 
"fight" the COMMUNISTS.  We were "democratic" and they were  
Or, as shown in an interview with the CIA's Ray Cline about the Eisenhower  
era, back then *everything* was re-cast in propaganda terms -- "almost 
black and  white" as he termed it -- including the view that NOT helping the 
uprising in  Budapest would become a propaganda victory for the US by showing 
how brutal the  Soviets were acting.
Continuing to use that terminology *against* the Chinese today, even in  
terms of Tibet, is foolish for the simple reason that anyone with any  
knowledge of the actual situation will immediately see that it doesn't  fit.
Ten's of millions of Chinese travel abroad (and then come home), just as  
100,000s study in Western colleges (and then go home), including those  who 
nearly every academic I talk to refer to as their *best* PhD students  (who 
then go home).  Imagining that what happens on Weibo etc is somehow  like an 
"Iron Curtain" is just stupid, although common.
Perhaps you're familiar with the work of Francois Jullien on the Chinese  
term "shi" (which, in part, refers to cultural notions about "authority in  
social action") --
Last November, I helped to organize a conference at the UN focused on a  
"Dialogue of World Civilizations," so, as it turns out, I know a little about  
the place and, indeed, its long-term civilization -- which is quite 
different  from the West and would be a good place to begin for a more thoughtful  

Mark Stahlman
Brooklyn NY
P.S. When I first got involved with nettime, it was around the time of my  
first trip to China.  Back then, the "big-deal" was the BEAST (i.e. aka  
"Beauty" or those responsible for anti-Soviet propaganda) finally meeting the  
EAST (i.e. those who were the targets).  As best I can recall, there has  
been little discussion of China, or its parallels with the Soviet Union, in  
the past 15+ years on this list.  Perhaps that should change -- if there  are 
enough people hereabouts who know enough to have an intelligent  

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