Good luck with that

I thought this blog would get views.  I didn't know how many.  It's been up and down.  I think I started writing this in 2012.  I enjoy it. I try and stay regular.

I thought I was on to something. 

Then I saw what was happening on Youtube. 

People like me "talk" about China and get a zillion views.  Incredible. 

But let me put that aside for the moment. 

If we remember, China likes to dictate the narrative. We all do.  Not just all countries but humans too.  In our job, at home with our wife, with all our personal interactions.

Youtube however has really changed the ability of Nations, of a Government Party, to do that.  It has titled the playing field from in favor of Governmental Authority to the Little Guy.  That is, anyone who has a voice can make a video.  And pretty much spout any views about any subject they may have.   We as democracies are used to that.  We are chaotic,  and as such learn to tolerate, albeit very slowly, the views other have of us.  Persuasion, the ability to persuade,  is a required skill in the West.   It helps you in your job,  with courting your wife, mediating disputes with neighbors, etc. 

So let's talk still a bit more about the narrative in China. 

The other day I received a text on WeChat about the launch of China's newest aircraft carrier. The name of the new carrier is apparently  Shandong. The person sending me the article wrote the following, in Chinese and English :

Those who offend China will be punished!

As I've said countless times, one must be more than impressed with how China's Government has seemingly effortlessly controlled the ability of its own People to hear only one message:  theirs.  Despite all the information available on the internet, as a tool for broadening one's point of view, the Internet has been soundly defeated in China.  It has met its match.  As such, in many ways, the Chinese are an intellectually uncurious people.   (A sad consequence if one remembers is its failure as a nation towards introspection. )

 For example, one girl I knew didn't even know China had a recent Nobel Laureate in Literature.  And I when I mentioned his name, she had no clue who he was!

Sure, some people are crazy about learning everything there is beyond their borders.  But I think by far, most Chinese are not.  Maybe 75%.  Sure they know some things.  They know who Trump is and what his wife looks like. But most by far are simply too busy with their daily lives.  End of Story.  Probably just like You and Me.

So China's biggest struggle isn't trying to mold the minds of its citizens.  This has already long since been accomplished.  To use that overwrought expression, the Chinese People are malleable putty in the Party's hands.  Have been for decades.    In order to undo a lifetime of subconscious indoctrination would take many, many years, and could only happen if a Chinese lived abroad.

We Americans are indoctrinated too.  We all are.  Koreans, Iranians, Ukrainians, etc.  And we can only truly see another person’s point of view by going abroad, far, far away from our well-constructed bubble.

So China's biggest battle now is where?  Overseas of course.   And when it comes to building, or manipulating its image as projected towards others, it’s a colossal failure. 

And so now we come back to YouTube.

While China is oh so easily able to paint a picture aligned with what it wants The Chinese Nation to see, it simply cannot replicate said formula abroad.   And if the folks challenging China's view of the narrative are well spoken Westerners, with some experience within China, it is even worse.

For example, there is a South African dude with the call sign of  serpentza.  Look him up.  If you like China, and browse YouTube, you will find him.  I'm not quite sure what he is.  I believe he married a Chinese divorcee(you should all by now know my thoughts on this, right?),  rides a motorcycle, and has alot of videos, with millions of views regarding his thoughts on China.    Originally they seemed to be quite positive, but are now turning more and more negative.

I'd heard he had immigrated to America, but I'm not quite sure.    Many have poked fun at his "stay awesome" mantra, and the topics of his work.  It seems he has now decided to make a career out of making YouTube videos regarding China, and I wish him well.

Of course he now pisses China off, and to the fantastic chagrin of China, he is untouchable, as long as he stays out of China.  

Another is laowhy86.  A former sidekick(current?) of the South African dude, in my view, he has made the most devastating video about China out there.  Go to YouTube, look him up, and you'll find it.   

These two gentlemen, and people like them, are quite passionate about China, and both are married to Chinese women.  They are a reflection of two trends:

A passion about China.  They are for many, the initial portal for learning about China, for apparently millions of Westerners.    I can hear the conversation now,

"Hey man, I'm thinking of going to China, what should I do?"
"Dude, before taking that step, watch these videos!"

Everything in short that China has strived to achieve, has been torn down by these guys.  All the money it has spent on soft power, the Confucius Institute's for instance, (Maybe an article about them someday.  They recently shut down here and China Wife grabbed alot of their stuff for free.), has been for naught.

In my view, the ability of so few Westerners to adversely affect the image of China so quickly and thoroughly has caught China off balance.  They are more influential than a diplomat, or scholar.  Thus the vast power of the Internet to dictate the narrative.  China controls it the Middle Kingdom, thus it operates to its dictates. 

In the West however, it is a free for all.  No one dictates to anyone.  The power of persuasion is key.

The other trend?  Without question a fear of China.  A growing, gnawing fear.  Let's be honest with ourselves;  If you don't want to see China "knocked" down a notch or two, you ain't paying attention.  Especially in America, where Trump's policies have hit a homerun, across all strata of society. 

This doesn't make China a villain per say.  It does mean that the West has failed to utterly communicate with China for the longest time regarding its expectations about norms of behavior.  China can rightly say "piss off",  different strokes, different folks.  Both sides have failed to communicate, for the love of commerce, the expectations they have of each other.  Which was ok while both sides of the cultural divide were making money.

Well the rivers of profit have dwindled, and now the chasms of strategic conflict have been exposed. 

These fellows are satisfying a pent up demand for knowledge.  Just as the Chinese read articles about America, etc, from returnees(fair or not), thus Westerners are doing the same.  

I must take a breath here and say I'm quite envious of the views these gents are getting.  I think without question they see this as a great way to tap into this interest about China whiles making some money at the same time.  For a little bit anyway.

Bravo to these dudes for showing their public faces.  But don't be surprised if you can't get back into China, much less back out, should you succeed in getting in.  And regarding your spouses, I hope they don't have any problems going back into China to see their own families' either.

Indeed, their public vilification(maybe a bit too strong), will eventually come with a cost.  If they are like me, they will understand China is their "life".   We have Chinese spouses, our work closely connected to the Heavenly Kingdom.   I applaud them(did I mention I'm jealous of their views?), but they cannot make money off "hate", or disillusionment forever.   They are in effect, the "People's Experts" on China, and well, there's no prestige to be had from that.   "Street Cred" is defined differently in "official" channels.  There the experts where ties and suits.  Maybe they speak Mandarin, maybe they don't.  But they don't fly drones in China and they don't get evening visits from the Public Security Bureau.  

In effect, their only competitive advantage, their "knowledge" and "experience" within China will not get them a job with any company, because that company will not take the risk of alienating a customer, or a source of supply.   China will outlast them.  As it did the critics of the 1940's up to present.  American business will continue to look the other way, accommodating the best it can, for that sea of profit,  visible out to the infinite horizon, an inch deep but as far as the eye can see. 

Their only choice will be to attempt to stay relevant by continuing to make videos, or bite the bitter bullet and simply try something new.  

Good luck with that.


  1. Youtubers by the nature of the medium are short-term stars only. People either grow tired of the topic or the messenger. So yes you can make a bunch of money for awhile (like the kid who does toy reviews) but eventually people move onto other things and they don't care anymore. These China experts will face the same fate in the future, and as you said they have now screwed themselves out of China too. People are too myopic. Just trying to grab easy money without thinking about the future. Its similar to the countless College Football and Basketball stars who come out early and either don't get drafted or fizzle out in a few years. The guys needed to stay in college longer to build their game, but they don't that think far ahead.

    As for the Chinese, it is so rare to have a intellectual discussion with a Chinese person. Forgot politics, just in general. They have no interest unless they can build face, make money, etc. I don't think the Party has to do much of anything, Chinese society in general is just not that interested in this type of stuff. It is like talking to a marketing person who only wants to sell you something. You just don't care.

    1. Yep, I'd have to agree. The temptation to make something now is akin to throwing all your fuel on the fire just to get a big roar, while having it die down only minutes after. Then you have nothing left. One's knowledge of China is useless if one cannot go back.

      Regarding your comments on money, that is especially true of course with the Young in society. Thx for your comment.

  2. "American business will continue to look the other way, accommodating the best it can, for that sea of profit, visible out to the infinite horizon, an inch deep but as far as the eye can see. "

    Brilliant - keep up the good writing. ��

  3. Thank you......let us see how long American business continues to "look the other way".....


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