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Wednesday, May 09, 2012



The excerpt you cite by no means represents the definitive reporting The New Yorker has done on this incident, particularly the daily dispatches that Evan Osnos has posted. While you end with his statement that the only benefit the whole affair has been for the Romney camp, you miss the statement in one of his dispatches that "If the Governor has an alternative vision for how diplomats might have better handled such an unprecedented case, he has yet to grace us with it."

Read more http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/evanosnos/2012/05/america-and-chen-guangcheng.html#ixzz1uNqG1iD8

There is another comprehensive account of the realities of what the diplomats had to deal with in The New York Times: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/05/09/world/asia/behind-twists-of-diplomacy-in-case-of-chen-guangcheng.html?pagewanted=1&hp

Rather than fabricate versions of the events out of pathologic animosity for Obama and anyone who works for him, it deals with the limitations that diplomats must face in finding some resolution: "embassies have some sovereignty, but airport highways do not."

It is regrettable that rather than trying to at least acknowledge the efforts and obstacles to protecting rights that Mr. Chen might have in our country but does not have in China, the American right-wing has chosen to make him party-line shark bait.

Donald Pay

My daughter used to translate for Newsweek, and has a pretty jaded view of what passes for the stories we get from China. Her main issue is that few of our journalists speak the language or get out of Beijing to actually "report." It's all phone interviews or emails through translators. She is personal friends with many of the reporters, so she sometimes lends her language skills to fact check. Not that she has a better view of the Chinese media.

me: how do chinese view the situation...not the authorities, but grassroots people

Even: hilariously i knew about this on friday night around 10p http://www.voanews.com/english/news/Chinese-Activist-May-Study-Law-in-New-York-150698015.html
grassroots people dont know shit about it
so when a topic is pretty sensitive over here, the government doesn't allow wide reporting of it in the media
it gets covered for sure
but there is an official set of things that can be said
and they are not that interesting
so every publication -- print, tv, online -- they all say the same 5 boring facts
and without talking heads or public intellectuals or opinion editors to directly tell people about interesting implications this might have, no one really notices
its like
if most americans heard some news about blah blah blah some lawyer was in prison blah blah
eyes glaze over, instead they watch the news about the toxic food or the kid who got run over by a car and no one helped...
there's been a lot of good open food safety coverage of late

me: so, it's not much different than here, where the john edwards trial leads the news

Even: it's only a very small community of people here (and worldwide) who give a shit about rights law
and its like, long term, there are no important implications of that
but... sex!
if you want to know what chinese care about on any given day, read this: http://beat.baidu.com/
very short explanations of the top chinese search terms

me: so, the intellectuals and college kids might talk about this, but no one else?

Even: yeah, except not even many of the college kids
because politics is sorta sexy to do as a student in the US
but not really here
there isn't that cachet

....the real tragedy of something like this chen thing is that china needs people who are invested in strengthening jurisprudence ... ideally INSIDE the system
more judges, more lawyers, and the best ones need to be willing to deal with local problems, not just try to get into fancy national courts
so laws can actually be enforced -- so people who are being abused by local officials have somewhere to turn
a bit more media freedom wouldn't hurt either
but LOCAL media. because the international press, god love them, usually get it wrong

Donald Pay

Forgot to mention the above is part of a chat I had with my daughter.

Bill Fleming

Thanks for the great post, Donald. I recall reading once that the Chinese people are traditionally rather politically apathetic. Made sense to me at the time considering they have been ruled first by emperors and then by dictators. Not much opportunity to feel personally engaged in government, I suppose. Just keep your head down, don't make waves, and enjoy life as best you can. ...hmm... now why does that sound kind of familiar?


What should be characterized as a "deeply embarrassing bungle" is the Right's effort to politicize this issue. Trying to reap political gain from set backs encountered in efforts to help Chen is shameful. Ironically, the Right berates the administration for imperfections in attempts to secure Chen's rights abroad while they fight tooth and nail against homosexuals' campaign to secure marriage rights at home. But grasping the concepts of shame and irony has never been the Right's long suit.

Ken Blanchard

A.I.: The New Yorker is not on the right. Neither are Evan Osnos or Ryan Lizza. I can understand your desire to dismiss any and every criticism of Obama as coming from the right. In fact, the criticism of American diplomats was came from all sides, including the LA Times, Human Rights Watch, and, I show above, the China correspondent for the New Yorker. At this point I must conclude that you are immune to evidence.

The same goes for you, Anne. You seem to think that you know what Evan Osnos thinks better than Osnos does. Sorry, but I think Osnos himself is a better guide. You direct my attention to Osnos' blogging on the New Yorker, which you think the comments above do not "represent". Okay. Here is a quote from your source:

"For American officials, it officially killed a deal that had turned out to be made of spun glass. In the forty-eight hours since Chen had exited the American embassy he had found himself at the center of a dispiriting diplomatic mess."

"A deal that had turned out to be made of spun glass", and "a dispiriting diplomatic mess," are precisely the view that I have been arguing. So it isn't just a "pathologic animosity for Obama" that explains such a views. Rather, it is a reasonable conclusion by anyone who is informed an not pathologically resistant to reality.


The New Yorker and most others you quote KB obviously aren't on the Right nor are their reports politically motivated. It takes folks like yourself to read/listen to those reports and term the actions taken as a "deeply embarrassing bungle" in an attempt to discredit Obama.

You and the rest of the Right tried to politicize what I've acknowledged were imperfect attempts to resolve the matter in a fashion suitable to Chen. It's not that I am immune to evidence, it's that I look at all the evidence. Having done so, I conclude the Right did cravenly attempt to use an unfortunate set of circumstances for political gain.

We are now well past the news cycle in which those attempts had a chance to succeed. They didn't. I suggest we drop the subject except to hope Chen and his family are allowed to leave China--if they so desire.

Ken Blanchard

A.I.: I looked at all the evidence and came to the same conclusion as Osnos and Lizza. That is the bipartisan view. Your argument seems to be reduced to this: I am bad because my motives were bad. Okay. But I wasn't wrong.

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