This week on Sinica, Jeremy Goldkorn, Gady Epstein, Will Moss and David Moser join Kaiser to talk about the Guo Degang Affair. When a fight with the media at the famous comedian's house became news, the incident sparked a week of heated public debate. This ended abruptly as authorities closed ranks, muzzled the outspoken comedian and stepped-up an old school campaign against the "three vulgarities." Looking beyond the headlines, what does this tell us about the media in China and why does it matter?

On a different front, we also talk about the insidious phenomenon of China apologism. A lively debate over this topic has emerged in the China blogosphere of late, especially regarding the controversial punditry of Shaun Rein. In an attempt to clear his name, Shaun joins us with an audio postcard and prompts a discussion of where the line should be drawn between presenting a nuanced perspective on China and defending the indefensible? When has someone simply gone too far?

Have your own thoughts? Share them in the comments section below, or write to us at sinica@popupchinese.com. And remember, to subscribe to the Sinica show through RSS, just open up iTunes, click on the "Advanced" menu and select the option "Subscribe to Podcast". When prompted, copy the URL http://popupchinese.com/feeds/custom/sinica into the box. If you'd like to download this mp3 directly from our site you can also grab it as a standalone mp3 file. Enjoy!
 said on
August 13, 2010
Here are links to some of the materials discussed in the podcast:

Joel Martinsen's summary of the Guo Degang affair, David Moser's swan song for Chinese humor, and Eric Abrahamsen's essay on tweaking in China. See also Shaun Rein's controversial column in Forbes and the online reactions from Peking Duck and A Modern Lei Feng. The comments on both sites are really worth reading too.

 said on
August 13, 2010
I think Shaun Rein's defense was poorly articulated, and did nothing but further his 'apologist' branding.
 said on
August 14, 2010
Shaun makes a perfectly valid point, people like Jeremy make themselves irrelevant to the discussion. It really seems like these issues has become too personal for him and this lack of objectivity and emotional response means me and other Chinese moderates will find it hard to be open to his criticisms even while we agree with much of it.

For example, my impulse was to jump all over Jeremy for his indignation at the destruction of Chinese culture. My initial response was also very emotional. Who is he to tell us what Chinese culture is? and my thoughts were.

"What is Chinese culture? and whose culture is always immutable. China is not here to fulfill what you think chinese culture should be... etc etc"

then I caught myself and realized that the government is indeed trying to impose uniformity for harmony and that does endanger the diversity of Chinese culture (with materialism lending a helping hand)

See?

If I didn't stop and take a breath I would have just wrote off what Jeremy said because of the way he said it.

 said on
August 14, 2010
I agree with Freescania and Richard. And let's not overlook the fact that the first two points Shaun makes in his "defense" are factually wrong and can be proven so by anyone with an Internet connection. It is absurd to argue that "real poverty has been basically eradicated" in China and it takes less than a minute to see that the United States still holds a considerable edge over China in terms of life expectancy. This holds even if you compare expected MALE longevity in the States to FEMALE longevity in China.

Fail Shaun, FAIL. And it is a public service for blogs like Peking Duck to call this sort of shit out. Because that's what it is. It pollutes the opinions of people who tend to take magazines like Forbes as authoritative sources. And all it serves is letting the author feel good while trying to establish himself as holier-than-thou.

Gady makes the best point here - apologism is a form of self-flattery. I also disagree with pinhead_gunpowder on whether it's ok to be emotional about this stuff too. I'd much rather be in a discussion with someone who is passionate about their opinion, because it betrays their biases and shows they care about the subject matter more than they care about how THEY are perceived by others. Someone with an ego or political agenda is a lot more dangerous.

And I think ostracization and ridicule is a perfectly appropriate defensive strategy when dealing with to this sort of thing. I'm surprised Shaun is still writing for Forbes.
 said on
August 15, 2010
from learner of Chinese point of view, i like the discussion, however one major thing is missing is the voice of Chinese. why not have Chinese intellectuals participate in such talks? so to me this is like a western view on Chinese issues.

Second i would love to see some of the Chinese characters, and words mentioned documented for learning purposes.

Guo Degang (郭德纲)

xiangsheng (相声)

shuai (帅)

huai (坏)

guai (怪)

Sān sú (三俗)

can we have all the chinese characters, names, and words mentioned in the podcast written somewhere?
 said on
August 15, 2010
Agree. China looks more liberalized than before, but actually it is not. Even worse.
 said on
August 15, 2010
Walid, I agree, and we would all love to have more Chinese voices on the show, but there are two reasons why we're generally not able to. First, among us we just don't know many Chinese people who are both authoritative and have a high level of English fluency who aren't already so well-known and in demand that they would be available, usually on short notice, for our humble little show. Secondly and perhaps more importantly, while there's very little risk for a bunch of expatriates to talk about some of the more sensitive issues covered in this podcast, it's quite risky for Chinese nationals to do so frankly and honestly. Hope you understand. By no means do we intend to exclude Chinese voices.
 said on
August 15, 2010
我个人觉得郭德纲有点傲,在媒体面前总会有出言不逊,容易得罪人。也许我们不能原谅他某些话语的轻狂,但毕竟他符合中国某些愤世嫉俗的人的心理需要。在中国,不公平的事件很多,公民没有安全感的地方也不少,如担心养老,教育,住房。我想每个国家都会出现类似的情况。
 said on
August 16, 2010
"Fail Shaun, FAIL. And it is [a public service for blogs like Peking Duck to call this sort of shit out]. Because that's what it is. It pollutes the opinions of people who tend to take magazines like Forbes as authoritative sources. And all it serves is letting the author feel good while trying to establish himself as holier-than-thou."

That was my point. For whom is it a public service? It's certainly not the Chinese people. Who is the readership of the blog? Foreign English teachers who already agree with Richard? bloody useless.

Like Shaun or not, he can change things in the government, people there are willing to listen to him. All the while they can safely ignore Pekingduck and people like Jeremy Goldkorn, because they with their "appropriate strategy of ostracizing and ridicule" just don't resonant with anyone else besides the few westerners living in China. They have no reach into general Chinese public, and all they can do is whinge nihilistically and wag their fingers.

 said on
August 16, 2010
Im tired of this kind of stuff being on this site, create another website for this kinda stuff

Some of its interesting but for people who know about this stuff, they already have their own opinions, for those who dont (learner level English teachers who havent been here long) you just fuel their easily impressionable and uninformed minds

Stick to teaching Chinese as thats what we want to hear!!!

 said on
August 16, 2010
@wacky,

Popup Chinese loves Sinica! That said, if you feel differently the solution is to change your settings so it doesn't appear on your RSS feed and front page by default. Do this by subscribing/unsubscribing to individual lesson series on our lesson archive page:

http://popupchinese.com/archives

Note: this only affects NEW lessons, so materials on your front-page won't automatically disappear. You can unbookmark them from clicking the "close" button on the front-page lesson teaser.

I'd actually encourage everyone to do this. We are working to make Popup Chinese the best place online for anyone serious about mandarin acquisition. Practically speaking, that means there is bound to be content above and below most people's comfort zones. Suggestions on how to introduce features and improve usability are alway very welcome. Write anytime at service@popupchinese.com.
 said on
August 18, 2010
听着真爽,太有共鸣了!!

还有,我个人完全支持郭德纲老师。
 said on
August 19, 2010
Wow! A sizzling, yet nuanced, discussion among articulate folks who know what they're talking about. Doesn't get better than this!

Keep it coming, Sinica!
 said on
August 20, 2010
Anyone who gets perturbed by Jeremy's reaction or manner of making a point aren't being objective themselves. If you truly listen to what someone is saying, take it on board and evaluate it, then it doesn't matter how they say it.

The problem is with the receiver not sender.

As for Shaun's defence, it was a bit ridiculous. Granted, reform needs to be pushed through a domestic-minded agenda in China, but that doesn't mean that the West or people have to give up on their principles at every turn. How is that helping China in the long run?

There is a balance to be struck between the Mandela/Gandhi stubbornists who never want to compromise on principles, which is where much of hte 'apologists' accusations come from; and on the other side, the ultra-pragmatists who think that doing things the chinese, or party way is always best.

The balance to be struck is called compromise. What google did was compromised initially on its values upon entering into the mkt, after a few years when little was coming in compromise from the other side, they held firm on their principles (or tried to).

 said on
August 20, 2010
Btw, can you tell us what is the music at the beginning and end of the podcast and is it possible to download it?
 said on
August 22, 2010
An interesting take on both topics- keep it coming! Slow news are so much better than what mainstream media serve us :-)
 said on
August 24, 2010
at least arguments here are more rational on both sides..

Guo's activity was a REaction--the media wanna obscure the 'passive behavior' by the 'active' .
 said on
August 24, 2010
at least arguments here are more rational on both sides..

Guo's activity was a REaction--the media wanna obscure the 'passive behavior' by the 'active' .
 said on
August 26, 2010
@padraigoliver - The music is from Chunqiu (Spring & Autumn); the song is called 猎人 (Lieren, "The Huntsman,") and you can download it on iTunes -- just look up Chun Qiu. Full disclosure: Chunqiu is the band I (Kaiser) play in and I wrote the music to this song.
 said on
May 20, 2013
Jeremy is awesome! Often has a great, poignant view of things.

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