Bloody Shovel 3

We will drown and nobody shall save us

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So it seems that hostility to China is now official American policy. Redgov, i.e. the Military Industrial Complex has been pushing it for quite a while, and for good reason: they want war, or at least a plausible threat of war so they can get bigger budgets and waste more money so they can embezzle their cut and invest it in things like Theranos. That's their job. And it happens that the narrow pecuniary interests of the Military Industrial Complex now fit very well with the electoral interests of the Republican Party. Trump wanted to run on the economy and the stock market, but Corona-chan has completely wrecked it. The strategy now is "It's all China's fault, let's make them pay". Again, lame, but understandable.

All in all it's been a while since these two sides of Redgov, the Military and the Republican party have interests so tightly aligned. As a result we've been having a massive onslaught of Pentagon-led propaganda this last year, and man, is it lame and stupid. The left really is better at this stuff. The left is not only smarter (on average, it attracts social strivers and smart people want status), it's also more motivated, and the internal competition is way higher. I've blogged before about how retarded Chinese propaganda tends to be due to a lack of market incentives: you could say the same about official right wing propaganda in the West. It's all for the boys, to fill up the resume. Not that promotion depends on anything but pedigree and connections, but it's always nice to have some stuff in there for when the Democrats come making questions.

So this guy called Matthew Pottinger yesterday published a speech to commemorate the May 4th movement in China. More on May 4th in a minute. What's remarkable of the speech is that he did it completely in Mandarin. And pretty good Mandarin at that. Very impressive for an Anglo I must say, pronunciation was tight. I don't give such compliments lightly. The guy is pretty good. If... very odd. His pronunciation is so textbook-ish it sounds like a text to speech generator. Tonal languages have tones, sure, and the guy nails the Mandarin tone contours. His first are high his seconds rise up and his fourth fall all the way. But you're not supposed to! Not like that. In actual speech tones vary according to syllable length and stress and just basic rhythm. The guy sounds like an A+ student who has never actually been to China. Biggest tell is that he doesn't do the 5th tone, the "light tone" of many common words like 父亲, "father". Imagine not pronouncing the word "father" properly.

It's really weird how accurate but mechanic he sounds. Either he's just some new category of cyber-bugman, or perhaps he wasn't reading actual Chinese writing, but a pinyin transliteration, i.e. an automatic romanization of Chinese letters. Transliteration engines usually translate letter per letter instead of words as a unit, so they lose light tones and other semantic influences on pronunciation. That would explain it.

Which makes it even funnier how some chattering heads (mostly co-workers of him in the USG foreign agitation apparatus) have come out saying his Mandarin is *perfect*. "Better than Deng Xiaoping's" said some banana retard. For fuck's sake. Sure, he's pretty good, easily top 1% of white guys in China. But please, apples to oranges. Deng Xiaoping was from Sichuan, he barely went to school, Mandarin was barely standardized at his time, and he didn't have access to teachers who spoke standard Mandarin. He also didn't need to learn a good accent, Sichuanese accent is quite strong but still intelligible to 90% of Mandarin speakers if not spoken too fast. Incidentally the first Chinese leader to speak unaccented Mandarin is Xi Jinping. Not because he's any kind of genius, but because he just happened to grow up in Beijing.

A bit of context on the timing: the May 4th movement (called 五四 in China, "five four". months in Chinese don't have names, just numbers) happened in 1919. China was in a rough spot in 1919. The Qing Dynasty fell in late 1911 and the Republic of China was declared; old general Yuan Shikai kept things more or less together until 1916 when he suddenly declared himself emperor and not even his own generals obeyed him. He died of sheer embarrassment weeks later, and China officially entered the "warlord era".

That was in the midst of WW1, where European powers were murdering each other in sight of the whole world. In theory China was lucky that Europeans were killing each other instead of carving out pieces of China as they used to. And the Chinese government (to the extent there was one) did the fairly rational thing of joining the allies at the last minute in the hope of getting something out of the peace treaty. That didn't quite work out though. China did send laborers to France to man the factories, but it didn't have the ability to send troops. And without troops, no leverage.

You know who had troops? Japan. Plenty of them. Japan did a smart bet and joined the allies from the beginning, and very early on took over Germany's colonies in Asia. Conquered them, by force. Among them Qingdao, where the Chinese beer comes from. The question at Versailles was then whether German possessions go back to China, the rightful owner, or to Japan, who actually made the effort of conquering them and already had troops in the ground. Well, Britain and France and America weren't going to send troops to China and make Japan surrender Qingdao. And so China got shafted, Japan got all it want, and it proceeded to use its position of strength to keep bullying China little by little, in what eventually became what we know as the Pacific theatre of WW2.

The Chinese were furious, of course. The government (to the extent they had one) could do little, but the intellectuals really felt the nation was at crisis. China was in disarray, starving, ruled by a bunch of tragicomic iliterate warlords who fought each other all the time, and bullied and ridiculed by foreign powers. 8 years after the foundation of the "republic", and all the hopes for a national renaissance, that obviously hadn't worked out. China was fucked, more than ever. Что делать?

Chinese academia, i.e. the university faculty and their students concluded that what was needed was... demonstrations. So a few thousand people in Beijing went out in the streets with banners demanding the government do not sign the Versailles treaty, and that they got their shit together and reunified the fatherland. The first they could do and did, the second wasn't possible obviously. Not like the students were forming an army and offering themselves to do the job of retaking Qingdao from the Japanese military. No, they just were there shouting and nagging what they knew was impossible. The warlord government just suppressed the demonstrations, and that was that.

The actual outcome of the May 4th movement wasn't political. Again, it was a fairly tame student demonstration at most. The importance comes from its link to the New Culture Movement, which was a burgeoning intellectual movement in China which argued that traditional, confucian culture was dead and harmful, and China should westernize utterly, and fast. This had several branches: one argued for Western style democratic politics, another argued for writing using vernacular language instead of classical Chinese (akin to the transition between Latin and local languages that European countries did from the 15th century), another for gender equality, etc. You get the picture.

All that was a small minority view at the beginning, but after China kept decaying more and more, the May 4th movement did get a lot of people to stop for a minute and think that maybe these guys were right. Maybe we should change the way we write and improve literacy among the masses. Hey, have you guys heard about Russia? They got this communism thing going on. Didn't take long for China to get its own Communist Party in 1921.

So in short, May 4th 1919 was one of the peaks of Western cultural and intellectual influence in China. It was a time where everyone in China agreed that China was inferior to the West and that China should adopt Western culture and politics. You see why the United States Government is making a point of celebrating this date? The gist of Pottinger's speech is, not surprisingly, "Hey, you guys used to worship us and do everything we said. Go back to that".

Who is this Matthew Pottinger guy though. His resume is... weird. His father was a high ranking bureaucrat in the 1970s, Harvard grad who ended up in Wall Street making millions. I'm sure those two parts of his career are a mere coincidence. He also was Gloria Steinem's boyfriend for 9 years.

Matthew himself studied at Amherst, majoring, of all things, in Chinese. He learned it well apparently, and after that went to Beijing as a Reuters, and later Wall Street Journal reporter. Spent seven years there, seems he got in trouble and police roughed him up a couple times. After his good career in American journalism, in 2005 he quits reporting and... joins the Marine Corps. Age 32. What?! "He spent several months in Beijing getting in good physical shape" so he could pass the requirements. Huh?

The whole thing is just... bizarre. He spent 5 years in the military, did some tours in Iraq and Afghanistan where he met many people of influence, and after leaving the military he goes to... a hedge fund in Wall Street. LOL. I mean, come on. I'm just gonna come out and say that the whole thing is fishy, this guy was an intelligence operative from the minute he left college, and his whole career is a CIA op. So following the example of Peter Buttigieg, who has a rather similar profile, I'm gonna come out and call Matthew Pottinger - CIA Matt.

CIA Matt I guess was lucky to leave China when he did, before the Chinese government got a list of names of CIA operatives in China and shot every single one of them. Seems he had a much safer life in Iraq and Afghanistan writing reports and drinking tea.

So much about the guy, let me fisk his little speech. It really is quite something. It's hard to ignore how... demeaning the whole thing looks. A guy who looks like him, the Uber Anglo, with his blue eyes, pasty skin and preachy tone, exhorting the Chinese to learn from all those white academics and their research on the real meaning of Chinese history. Listen to us, we know better! The aesthetics are just awful. But again, the US really is the hegemon, so arrogance of this sort is to be expected.

Again, as you know, the United States is an empire, but it's not one empire. By and large, following Moldbug's parlance, we can divide USG in Bluegov and Redgov. Bluegov is what we call "the Cathedral", i.e. the US government bureaucracy, the State Department, journalists, international institutions, NGOs, academia, etc. They all look and talk the same way. That's "the Left". Bluegov's imperial outreach works through international bureaucracies, the media and NGOs, and they talk the language of Bioleninism. Privileging feminism, LGBT, ethnic minorities. They do that very well, have a *very* polished rhetoric on the subject, and have been very successful in spreading their ideology in foreign countries. Xi Jinping has had to work overtime for 10 years to push away this stuff in China's media and academia. Bioleninism is dangerous stuff. It works.

Redgov though is much smaller. It's basically the Military Industrial Complex. It's well funded, and quite competent, but propaganda it's just not its forte. It can more or less sell old school patriotism inside its own country, but there's some basic conflict between a patronage network centered in the armed forces of a certain country and their ability to persuade foreigners. Armies are just not in the business of persuading. Their business is in threatening, that's what they do. The Melian Dialogue is the beginning and the end of military rhetoric. That and Gengis Khan's admonitions to Nishapur. There's really little else you can say.

Alas, we live in clown world, where everything is fake and gay, so the US military is now in the business of trying to trigger an uprising of the Chinese people against their government by appealing to that time 101 years ago where China was weak and poor and felt inadequate.

First of all it was obviously written in English and then translated to Chinese. Here's a transcript. The tone, the pacing, the rhetoric is just full 100% American political speechwriting. I mean... don't do that. Ostensibly this was a speech to the Miller Center of the University of Virginia. But why do it in Chinese? So that Chinese people can see it, right? This is an attempt to agitate Chinese people, give them some first hand American official speech. That's quite valuable, if done right. This wasn't.

If you're writing a speech for a specific audience (to the Chinese people, supposedly) then you should write it from the beginning in the language of those people. This will force your mind to use their idioms, their pacing, their rhetoric. You'd put yourself in a position to persuade a Chinese person, and if you've ever done that before, you know the language you're supposed to use. It doesn't seem like CIA Matt does. He doesn't even get the basic difference between writing for readers and writing for a speech; you're supposed to use more colloquial language for the latter, avoiding words which come down well in Chinese logographic writing but are hard to pronounce and parse by ear when uttered aloud. This may sound very hard but it really isn't rocket science.

I mean, he even doesn't get basic vocabulary right. Pandemic as 传染病大流行 when in China everybody says 疫情. Whoever translated his speech hasn't been reading *any* news from China for the last 5 months. Internet as 因特网?That's Taiwanese Mandarin, in China it's 互联网. Why would you write a speech where even basic words aren't translated properly? Isn't this supposedly about reaching the Chinese public in their own language? Seems not. They must have outsourced the translation to the Taiwanese government, because who cares. This isn't supposed to work. This is just a LARP, a piece of theatre for domestic (and vassal) consumption, where Americans can pat themselves in the back about what a great job they're done. "That'll show them", they must be saying.

Note how much time he spends thanking his teachers and think-tank pals in the beginning. Who in China gives a shit about Governor Jerry Baliles? Why on earth thank that guy in public in Mandarin? This is typical bugman speech, the point is to show one's good standing at the ruling class, scratch the right backs. Quoting John Pomfret! Who the fuck cares? Again, bugman speech, the same thing that makes academic papers and books be 70% about quoting the right people with appropriately groveling adjectives and 30% to making the actual argument (in arcane prose lest the commoners read it).

It's just incompetent. You're not gonna reach any potentially friendly Chinese citizen like this. Not if you fail to do the basic job of using proper language. That's hard, though, most translated stuff is like that. There's a basic problem with translations which is that the consumers don't have enough information to judge the quality of the product. By definition, really. So translations tend to be atrocious. The only cases are in literature where you need a polished product to sell and make any money, and the original author takes an interest in seeing that his work hasn't been adulterated. Which he often doesn't, or if he does only about languages he more or less understands (not many).

It's hard for me to ignore the form and focus on the content, but this horrible, lame, kitsch, fake and gay speech needs a takedown. Let's focus on the first point he makes after speding 5 minutes licking the asses of all those western academics. Hu Shi's "gift of language" to the Chinese masses.

Again, what a gay way of putting it. "Hu Shi's gave the Chinese people the gift of language". Huh? Were they all speechless before? Pre-human savages who couldn't talk? No, of course, China has the longest uninterrupted literary tradition of all humanity. What he means is that Chinese writing was mostly done in classical Chinese, and Hu Shi argued that people should write in vernacular.

What CIA Matt seems to ignore is that Hu Shi didn't invent vernacular writing. Have you ever heard of the Romance of the Three Kingdoms? The Journey to the West? The Water Margin? The Dream of the Red Chamber? Those are known as the Four Great Novels in Chinese literature and... they're all written in vernacular. Yes, Chinese have been writing in vernacular since at least the Tang Dynasty, and vernacular fiction has been a major literary genre since the early Ming Dynasty (the 14th century). The Qing Dynasty had a flourishing literary industry of pulp-fiction (sort of) written in very colloquial language. The Qing Dynasty emperors wrote official letters in vernacular!

Sure, vernacular wasn't prestigious among the literary establishment. It was considered kinda trashy by any self-respecting intellectual in China. A properly educated man was supposed to read his history and his poetry in classical, vernacular novels were for kids and women. What the May 4th movement, and Hu Shi did, was argue that smart people should stop being so conservative and go populist, try to write newspapers, essays and political philosophy in vernacular too. Make it prestigious. Which they did; nobody writes classical anymore, the 1920s and 1930s saw a boom in very good literature written in vernacular. The Communists made a point of vulgarizing the language even more; CPC documents sound positively peasant-ish. That has been changing a bit recently though as China has developed a new chattering classes. Literacy in classical has also been strengthened in the school curriculum of late.

So again, it's quite a show of academic autism to make a change in the prestige of a type of prose into some sort of religious awakening ."The gift of language". Give me a fucking break. He makes fun of Gu Hongming as this conservative boogeyman who opposed the abolition of classical Chinese prose. What he fails to mention is where Gu Hongming came from. He was a British subject! Born in British Malaya, educated in Scotland; he was the first Chinese kid who became an anti-Western reactionary after experience with Western education. I'm sure he's crying of joy from the other side as he sees how millions of Chinese students abroad these days are sharing his experience these days. Gu was so much of a shitlord, he made a point of wearing the Manchu queue even after the Qing Dynasty fell.

As a counterpart then he chooses P.C. Chang. If Gu Hongming was a Chinese born in the West who grew to dislike it and ended up living in China growing a queue and wearing traditional clothing, P.C. Chang was the opposite: born in China but moved and died in America. Supposedly he helped draft the UN's Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Helping balance Western individualism with his input of Chinese collectivism. Wait, the Declaration of Human Rights has "confucian collectivism" in it?? Chinese Socialism?!! Sacrilege! Has Tucker Carlson heard of this. Might have to leave the UN now too.

Then he says the fact that P.C. Chang put some confucian perspective on the UN charter means the Chinese people can have democracy, and Taiwan is "the living example". Mmm quite the leap of logic here buddy. Guess somebody read the first draft and asked for Taiwan to be put there, somewhere, fast.

And then, he mentions Li Wenliang. Oh, Li Wenliang. Li Wenliang. It's all so tiresome. Would anyone remember the guy if he hadn't died? The guy wasn't arrested or incarcerated, let alone tortured like Steve Bannon's propaganda kids were claiming months ago. He was telling his fellow doctors on chat groups that SARS was back, and *his fellow doctors* called police because they thought he was annoying. Local police then followed the book and told him to shut up and sign a statement by which he promised to shut up. China is a big country, nobody up there in Beijing knows about any random doctor in a random hospital in a random city. No conspiracy to silence a hero. He turned out to be mostly right, and oddly for a man his age he died. Given his own coworkers ratted him to police it wouldn't surprise me some fellow doctor poisoned him at the hospital. He surely didn't have many friends around. Again, shitty thing that happened to him, but if he hadn't taken two selfies nobody would remember the guy.

He also didn't tell a reporter "in his death bed" that China needs "more than one voice". He wasn't even positive at that point! He told that to Caixin, whose reporting has been openly critical of the Chinese government early response (and somehow their reporters don't get sent to Gulags). Plenty of people in China are against censorship, even China's Troll in Chief Hu Xijin, who argued China has enough shitlords by now to deal with American propaganda online. Xi disagrees.

CIA Matt goes on. "China has expelled more foreign journalists in a year than the Soviet Union in decades". Hah. That says more about the Soviet Union that it says about China. Ever heard of Anthony Sutton? Read him.

Then he goes on to mention all those local Christians and Hong Kong protestors. Again, this is not a speech meant to reach common Chinese. This is meant for domestic consumption, a speech to all the clients of USG, a message to all his corporate employees, to thank for them for their service, sure, payments haven't been very regular, but we love you guys! Great job! The big boss is aware of you! Keep working for free just a little longer, any day now the Communist Party will collapse and we'll make you ministers or something.

Then he raps up by again mentioning Hu Shi, making a yet another weird link between Hu Shi's promotion of vernacular writing and democracy and whatever. Dude, wtf. Why make a hero of Hu Shi? Nobody in China likes the guy. Not even in Taiwan. It's real funny. I mean, *I* like the guy. He was a pretty good writer, a decent historian and a brilliant columnist. But he lived in an era of great encompassing ideologies and the guy refused to fit, refused to put his prestige to a cause. He was his own man. And that exasperated everyone. Mao Zedong and Chiang Kaishek both hated him, not a mean feat. He was also known as a whoremonger and general bon vivant. Famously argued that China should not waste energy fighting the Japanese given that at some point they'd overreach and get fucked by the Soviets and America and China could easily finish them off at that point. Cool guy in my book, if somewhat of a weasel, and a really really bad fit for the 30s.

Best story about him is how he chose his own name, Shi 適 (used to be common in China to change names to rebrand oneself). You know what that name means? "Fit", in the Darwinian sense. He loved the Origin of Species and changed his name to make a point of his Social Darwinist ideology! So again, great guy, but a very unlikely saint for the cause of American hegemony. The guy spent some years in exile in the US after the Communist takeover but he eventually left and died in dictatorial Taiwan. Obviously didn't like freedum. I don't know if there's some academic thing in America where some Chinese Studies prof who CIA Matt likes has made a point of promoting Hu Shi, but he really is not a guy you want to canonize.

And then the guys end a speech with an apology of "populism". "It fueled Brexit and Trump's election" he says. China could use more of that. Really, Matt? That's your argument? That China needs more populism? I mean, lol. If China had *more* populism they'd have nuked Washington and Tokyo just for lulz. Be very careful what you wish for.

I mean, I'm not in the business of helping USG subvert China, you couldn't pay me enough to do it, but hell, it just bugs me at an aesthetic level. There's so much more effective ways of doing it than this sanctimonious crap. Trump needs better advisors, he's a genius at trolling domestically, he could do so much better. If you made a speech in Chinese saying "actually it was the Democrats and covert commies in the US government that helped the Communist Party win the Chinese civil war. If it wasn't for American leftist help, the Kuomintang would have never lost and you wouldn't have had massacres of landlords and the 1960 famine killing 40 million people. Sorry 'bout that". Xinhua would get so angry the whole building would explode. Hu Xijin would get a stroke and go on a coma. But nah, all USG can do is get CIA Matt to exhort the Chinese populace to read John Pomfret. Pfff.

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  • Incidentally enough I think if our propaganda was better we would probably be able to avoid a worse outcome for everyone involved.

  • Very interesting and strange. This guy learns Chinese in the US and then spends 7 years in China. I'd expect that this should polish his language skills. Somehow it didn't. How is that possible? I guess he lived inside some expat bubble and hardly spoke any Chinese in those years. Probably spoke English to the Chinese he was contacting for the CIA. Hard to imagine that the wrote the speech himself. What is striking is that he didn't even revise the translation. Can't imagine that a man who studied Chinese and lived there for 7 years not spotting the mistranslation of word like "internet". That says a lot about the quality of work his masters demand. I'm glad you're back at blogging. It is please reading your posts. Thank you!

  • I'm concerned that the West is going to ramp up rhetoric like this while neglecting the yeoman work of diversifying its markets and supply chains. Japan's approach is better: minimal whining apart from Aso, who can't help himself, and a quiet shift towards moving some factories to less hostile nations in South East Asia. The harsh, arrogant words from Chinese diplomats and in their English press are also for domestic consumption. Both sides are like dogs barking ferociously at the intruder to impress our masters, not really wanting a fight, but perhaps stumbing into one.

  • Forgetting 疫情 is just strange. I am getting dangerously close to the “Kremlinology” I despise by examining these word choices this closely but come on dude who wrote this for him? I wish I could know. You’re the only person I’ve seen comment on his actual speech’s substance. Everyone else has just noted that he speaks Chinese well but in a way that would be obnoxious for a Chinese to do so. Many Western commentators are also stupidly pretending it is difficult to read a prepared speech in Chinese where you can get away with simply reading each syllable and only sounding a little bit like a Martian. The broad reactions I’ve seen seems to range from discouragement and concern about the US becoming this blatant from Chinese “liberals” to a surging desire to beat the crap out of him from “nationalists”. Like you say, it’s not supposed to work.

  • Can you recommend any books about this part: "actually it was the Democrats and covert commies in the US government that helped the Communist Party win the Chinese civil war"? I never have read anything about China other than S. C. M. Paine's The Wars for Asia.

    • Freda Utley. Interesting life, she was an English Communist who turned anti Communist after Stalin purged her Russian husband. She wrote a lot about China during the 30s and 40s covering the Chinese Civil War. Paine is a one trick pony, a US mil-ind sinecure who's shtick is blaming Russia. I mean what do you expect when you literally work for the Pentagon. Her entire corpus is that bad terrible China fell for bad evil Russia's trick and turned Communist and that poor put upon Japan was forced into action by Russian misinformation ops.

    • Try Joseph McCarthy's "America's Retreat From Victory: The Story of George Catlett Marshall." McCarthy is today vilified for noticing that the Roosevelt Administration and the State Department during the war and after were, indeed, crawling with Soviet agents and sympathizers. When the KGB archives were briefly opened to Western historians in 1992-95, he was more than vindicated--he had no idea how far the rot went. And yes, for most of the war, State Department bigwigs like Owen Lattimore over and over "accidentally" gave weapons and food intended for Chang Kai-Shek and the Nationalists to Mao. Returned Nationalist prisoners were turned over to Mao, who had them shot. From 1937 to 1945 the Nationalists fought both the Communists and the Japanese, while the Communists and the Japanese had a tacit truce. Before Owen Lattimore and the "China hands" decided--presumably with tacit or at least off-the-record approval from Roosevelt and Truman--to arm and supply the Communists, the Nationalists were slowly winning their two-front war. Like the Bolshevik Revolution three decades before, the Communist takeover of China was 99.9% made in USA, by the Usual Suspects.

  • From Chinese language and history expert Victor Mair's "Matthew Pottinger's speech in Mandarin" After that, on May 5, came a sustained, vitriolic denunciation from a fellow who calls himself Spandrell: "Cold War 2 Propaganda". The author introduces himself thus: Welcome to my blog. I am a European man living in Asia who blogs about the past and future of civilization. I started this blog in 2011, and since then I developed a few theories which have been influential. The background of my thought is that modern Civilization, more precisely modern Western Civilization, is on a death spiral. I try to use the insights taken from world history, the theory of evolution and pragmatic philosophy to understand why… It's clear that Spandrell's animus toward Pottinger is primarily political and ideological (he is anti-American and against Western civilization, while being better disposed toward the CCP and the PRC). Nonetheless, since everybody is oohing and aahing over Pottinger's Mandarin, he feels the need to belittle that too. Unfortunately, nearly everything he says about Pottinger's use of language is wrongheaded, as will be shown below and in comments to come. Spandrell is also wrong about a lot of other things, such as saying that Pottinger went to Amherst, when in fact he went to the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. The former is a small, private, elite college, while the latter is a large, public, mass university. It just so happens, though, that — for as long as I can remember, since the days of Shou-hsin Teng, UMass-Amherst has had a truly outstanding Chinese language program. Read the whole thing: https://languagelog.ldc.upenn.edu/nll/?p=47013

    • I don't have any technical basis to judge who is right here, but if the credential-grubbing whores told me the sky is blue, I'd go outside to double-check.

  • What's up with the Fang dude? He spends all his time on twitter tweeting about how shitty American reporting on China is. If you know American reporting on China is mostly deep state propaganda why even bother wasting your time reading Mair and then commenting?

    • Because he'd like if it American propaganda were better (i.e. if he were in charge). He's obviously sympathetic to America. He recently talked of going vegetarian, which is absolutely foreign to any Chinese, period.

  • Redgov is full of second-rate backbenchers who are really believers in Blugov but are too stupid to get a spot there (your talking heads), jarheads, and nerds. I don't know what you expect. The part of Redgov with the best image is Big Tech, and: 1. It doesn't have a terribly good image to begin with. People think of Big Tech as an faceless 1984 machine that extracts precious bodily fluids from the goyim. Zuckerbot memes etc 2. It's not well known that Big Tech is an outpost of Redgov, since Big Tech is very careful to cover its tracks and issue denials. Not even many tech employees are aware of this, thanks to compartmentalization. If people were aware of this, Silicon Valley would probably be burned down. 3. The most popular thing Redgov ever made was Siri, and that was basically "dude, what if hot sexy Halo lady was real???" 4. The base does not understand the nature of Redgov schemes. The assorted blue-check grovelers of Blugov are quick to accept new narratives because "here's what you need to know". The average Redgov base member is not attached to Redgov, which he vaguely distrusts, but the patriotic image surrounding Redgov. Living in China, you can see that an analogous "Communism with American characteristics" would not be disagreeable to right-wing minded people. Nor is it disagreeable to Redgov power brokers. Is the Chinese way bad for manufacturing? Tech and surveillance? The military? Conservative family values? I rest my case. The Republican base, which has internalized Cold War propaganda, does not agree. There's a reason why former Bernie employees are able to find GOP sinecures and why European communist parties meet with GOP leaders at the National Prayer Breakfast. The Redgov base does not understand that the media's constant cries to dismantle Big Tech are not done out of kindness, but out of Blugov *self-interest*. All that said, part of why Redgov is bad at propaganda is because it is Redgov and not Blugov. Propaganda is what *Blugov* is. Certainly not any adherence to principle. If Blugov was out to build communism, as members professed during the Cold War, it would unite with Redgov to build communism in the USG. Instead they pimp themselves for globalist neoliberalism. Great. Redgov is the one with real goals, like blood for oil, spy on the world, hold the Pacific Rim. Blugov is just a force of inchoate, grasping chaos. Blugov sabotaged Google's attempt to build a universal health-tracking system "because it violates privacy rights" then complains that the US and Orange Man is too incompetent to do test-and-trace. It's not like China's government, which is like a fully realized and in-control Redgov, is much better at propagandizing to the West. You yourself admit the CCP is lame.

    • "It’s not well known that Big Tech is an outpost of RedGov, since Big Tech is very careful to cover its tracks and issue denials...If people were aware of this, Silicon Valley would probably be burned down." LOL. Anyone with a smartphone and a data plan can go on Wikipedia and discover any or all of: * Google was a DARPA spinoff; * Before FaceBook was FaceBook there was LifeLog; * Thiel founded Palantir with In-Q-Tel money; * Last year Bezos was a hairsbreadth away from inking a $10B deal with the Pentagon; * Musk gets all of his rocket money from NASA et al.; * etc. It's kind of a joke, actually.

      • I think that you are overestimating the level of knowledge people have. Google employees were very upset to discover the existence of Project Maven, for instance. And the Bezos Pentagon contract was all hype. The media invents stories. It was originally slated for Google before the Maven PR nightmare. Bezos' real giveaway was the CIA contract that made AWS a big boy, quite a ways back. Sometimes I feel elements of the CIA have very blue/globohomo sentiments.

  • I'm only going to comment on this: "Internet as 因特网?That’s Taiwanese Mandarin, in China it’s 互联网". Nope. 因特网 was used on the Mainland in the 1990s, well into the noughties. That's when Pottinger was studying and working in China. Gradually, it was replaced by 互联网. That makes it a bit old-fashioned; it does not make it "Taiwanese Mandarin". Unlike Japanese, which is almost fanatical about uniformity, there is a lot of room for diversity in Chinese. Don't try to force everything into a mould just so you can make a point.

    • Do you have any data on prevalence of each? I've spoken Chinese for over a decade and always learned it as 互联网. At any rate a competent speaker should keep up with changes in the language. You know, read stuff and talk to people. Also Japanese is not that uniform at all, where do you get that from?

      • Japanese mainstream press usage for topical terms is pretty uniform. When a term is decided on, mainstream newspapers usually follow suit. Unless you read 赤旗, of course. Their usage may vary. "Over a decade" means you arrived in China around the end of the noughties, so you're a relative newcomer. Yes, 互联网 is the term you would be familiar with. I have no figures on usage; I just know that 因特网 was quite common in the 90s and then gradually faded away. I would suggest that the Chinese press may have played some part in this because they do seem to have favoured 互联网. "At any rate a competent speaker should keep up with changes in the language." True, but it's amazing how old usages still cling on, or remain in memory. But my point was that your judgement on 因特网 was factually incorrect: rather than being a point against Pottinger it was actually a point against you. As for 疫情, it's been the word of choice in China since January this year, but it's by no means the only word for talking about epidemics. In fact, Pottinger's speech actually uses the word 疫情 twice, although he uses it in combination with 武汉的, which makes it sound politically loaded in a way that is probably more typical of Taiwan. As I said in my original comment, I do not wish to engage with your entire piece, merely the breezy declarations about linguistic usage, which seemed to me to be grounded in overly narrow experience.

        • PS: Try a search on Google Books for 因特网. The term seems to peter out somewhere around 2006. 互联网 picks up speed from the turn of the century. Interestingly, Wikipedia (for what it's worth) gives this little table of Chinese usage at the article on 互联网: 中国大陆: 互联网、因特网、英特网 台湾: 网际网路 港澳: 互联网 马新: 互联网、网际网络 If this is correct (quite a big if, of course), your jibe about "Taiwan Mandarin" was completely misguided.

          • I can tell you that this is correct for Taiwan at least. Having lived there most of my adult life, I can say that I have never once heard someone use 互聯網 or 因特網. Spandrell is usually right, but sometimes his anti-Taiwan bias causes him to make mistakes - a proclivity of all biases from which no one is exempt (and thus Spandrell's only real mistake is having that bias in the first place).

            • Unlike Hong Kong I have no bad experiences in Taiwan (not good ones either tbh). But I do have a heuristic that any unfamiliar technical Chinese word is Taiwanese usage, which is right most of the time. Seems I got it wrong this time, mea culpa.

    • Does no one just say 網絡? For me, this was the issue and backs up Spandrell's point about the speech not being in easy-listening colloquial form. 因特網 互聯網 are equally clunky in spoken language imo

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