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“Witness to China’s Diplomatic History” – Netizens Commemorate Diplomat Wu Jianmin

Chinese diplomat Wu Jianming was killed in a car accident on June 18, at the age of 77. Although Wu has been criticized to be a “dove diplomat”, netizens generally remember him as a sincere and truthful man. His death is widely commemorated on Chinese social media.

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Chinese diplomat Wu Jianming was killed in a car accident on June 18, at the age of 77. Although Wu has been criticized to be a “dove diplomat”, netizens generally remember him as a sincere and truthful man. His death is widely commemorated on Chinese social media.

Wu Jianmin (吴建民) was a prominent Chinese diplomat in China. He was trained in French language and literature in Beijing Foreign Studies University, and has since then played an important role in Chinese diplomacy.

During the 1971-1977 period, Wu was one of the first Chinese diplomats residing in the United Nations. He worked at the Chinese Embassy in Belgium, and was ambassador to the Netherlands and France. He was the first Asian president to the International Exhibition Bureau.

Wu was killed in a car accident on his way back home from the airport in Wuhan. The accident was believed to have been caused by driver fatigue. Wu was scheduled to have a meeting the next day for the publication of China’s Peaceful Development White Paper 2016.

Wu’s Diplomatic Ideas

As a diplomat, Wu was an advocate of China’s non-conflictual interaction with the world. Acknowledging that the world’s knowledge of China is asymmetric to China’s knowledge of the world, Wu believes that the proper manner to increase mutual understanding lies in sincere communication. China should also stick to its ancient philosophy of harmony and peace.

A list of Wu’s quotations by People’s Daily provides a brief look into Wu’s diplomatic thoughts:

  • “We should not jump with rage at foreign criticism.”
  • “There should be no calculation of petit interests in foreign aid. If one wants something, one needs to offer first.”
  • “From 5m dollars to 550 billion, how could this be possible without mutual trust between China and America?”
  • “The world today runs no longer on ‘jungle rule'”
  • text

    His Death is a Loss to the Country

    Wu was particularly anxious about the rise of nationalism combined with popularism in China. He believed both trends to be deceptive, as they could potentially lead China and its people back to an inward looking, self-centered worldview – a perspective that would not benefit China’s role in the international society.

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    Wu’s take on China’s role in the world was also why some criticized him. Some deemed him a “dove diplomat” with a naive believe in peace and too soft to stand up to the world. Wu himself reacted to such criticism by stating that those who view global politics as dangerous and confrontational no longer understand the world today. This view has brought Wu to the centre of the national debate on China’s diplomatic strategies.

    Although not everybody agreed with his views, most netizens see Wu as a truth-speaking diplomat. Many lit candles for the deceased diplomat under the Sina Weibo topic “Wu Jianmin Killed in Car Accident” (#吴建民车祸去世).

    “Mr. Wu was a witness of Chinese diplomatic history. He had a rational and distinct view of the world. He was an excellent diplomat and his death is a loss to the country”, writes one netizen.

    wujian

    Some netizens show sympathy with Wu’s diplomatic ideas and worry that China’s future foreign policy will become less peaceful: “Does the death of Ambassador Wu suggest the end of a diplomatic époque? Must the national discourse be diverted to international fractures in a time of economic pressure? Now many are propagating war on line. This is not a good phenomenon.”

    Netizens Show Concern over China’s Diplomacy

    This is not the first time Chinese netizens express concerns over China’s diplomatic strategy. Last month, Minister of Foreign Affairs Wang Yi sharply berated a journalist during a state visit in Canada.

    When the journalist questioned why Canada pursued closer ties with China despite the PRC’s human rights situation, Wang Yi interrupted and criticized the journalism for being too prejudiced: ““I have to say that your question is full of prejudice against China and arrogance … I don’t know where that comes from. This is totally unacceptable,” he said. He also stated that only Chinese can comment on its human rights situations.

    Wang Yi’s reaction triggered much discussion on Chinese social media. While some felt proud that Wang spoke out against foreign criticism, there were also those who did not agree with the manner in which he did this. A video clip of Saudi Arabia Minister of Foreign Affairs Adel Al Jubeir was widely shared as a contrasting example to Wang Yi. Al Jueir, when confronted with a journalist’s statement that Islam and terrorism cannot be separated, answered with grace and reason.

    “A man is a true man not because he persists he’s right even when he knows he is wrong”, says one netizen, “he is a true man because he has the courage to own up to his mistakes. Look at our foreign minister. Patriotism is horrible; it can deprive a nation of its sense of right and wrong”.

    Many Chinese netizens are increasingly concerned about China’s diplomacy in the world today. Their stance is different from the public sentiment that was reported on some years ago when China’s Foreign Ministry claimed they were under pressure of the public and frequently received packages of “calcium tablets”, allegedly intended to “strengthen their spine against foreign pressures” (Shambaugh 2013, chapt 3).

    Although many Chinese might have believed the diplomatic strategy of their country was far too soft, the foreign minister declared in 2014 that they’ve been receiving far less packages of calcium tablets.

    The growing online discussions and lessening calcium deliveries might be an indication that China’s public opinion is slowly changing into questioning a too assertive tone in China’s foreign affairs.

    – By Diandian Guo 

    Shambaugh, David. 2013. “Chapter 3: China’s Diplomatic Pressure”, in China Goes Global: The Partial Power. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press (Google Books).

    ©2016 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

    Diandian Guo is a China-born Master student of transdisciplinary and global society, politics & culture at the University of Groningen with a special interest for new media in China. She has a BA in International Relations from Beijing Foreign Language University, and is specialized in China's cultural memory.

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    China Insight

    Looking at Your Phone While Crossing the Road Will Now Cost You Money in Zhejiang

    Pedestrians looking at their phones while crossing the road are getting a red light in Zhejiang.

    Manya Koetse

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    Zhejiang Province in eastern China has recently launched a new policy: pedestrians crossing the road while looking at their phone risk getting a 50 RMB ($7) fine.

    The policy has been attracting the attention of netizens on Chinese social media, where the so-called “Bowed head clan” (dītóuzú 低头族) – a slang word for smartphone-addicted people – has been a recurring hot topic.

    People paying more attention to their phone than watching traffic while crossing the road can lead to very dangerous situations. Some graphic videos making their rounds on Weibo today show security camera footage of people getting run over by cars while looking at their phone.

    The majority of people responding to the hashtag “Should people be fined for looking down to their phone while crossing the road?” (#低头玩手机过马路该罚款吗#) agree that this kind of behaviour is a risk to traffic safety, but some wonder if a small fine would be effective in combating this problem.

    Some cities in China have introduced sidewalks with a “phone lane” and “no phone lane” over previous years, with Chongqing being the first city to do so in 2014.

    Mobile phone sidewalk in Chonqgqing. Source https://tech.qq.com

    As of earlier this year, the Pedestrian Council of Australia is also looking to implement a law that makes it possible to fine pedestrians who cross the road while looking at their phones.

    In Honolulu, the ‘distracted walking law’ already makes it illegal for people to be distracted by their cellphones while walking in a crosswalk.

    “Fine them!”, some commenters on Weibo say: “And also fine those people using their phone while driving their electric bicycles!”

    “I’m not sure about the fine,” another person says: “I only know I bumped into a tree today walking looking at my phone..”

    For many commenters, however, the issue is a no-brainer: “Just don’t use your phone while crossing the road. Personal safety comes first.”

    Also read: The ‘Bowed Head Clan’ (低头族): Mother Watches Phone While Son Drowns in Pool

    By Manya Koetse, with contributions by Jialing Xie.

    Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please let us know in comments below or email us.

    ©2019 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com

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    China Arts & Entertainment

    ‘American Factory’ Sparks Debate on Weibo: Pro-China Views and Critical Perspectives

    ‘American Factory’ stirs online discussions in China.

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    Award-winning documentary American Factory is not just sparking conversations in the English-language social media sphere. The film is also igniting discussions in the PRC, where pro-China views are trumpeted, while some critical perspectives are being censored.

    By Anna Wang and Eduardo Baptista

    Even as China posts its lowest industrial output growth since 2002, Weibo’s ongoing reaction to Netflix documentary American Factory is rife with declarations of the Chinese manufacturing sector’s impending victory over its US rival. This, however, is not the full story.

    The first documentary distributed by Higher Ground Productions, owned by former US President and First Lady, Barack and Michelle Obama, American Factory painted a damning picture of Trump’s protectionist policies.

    US manufacturing cannot keep up with the brute efficiency of its Chinese competitors. The story of a shuttering American factory revived by Chinese investment and an influx of Chinese workers, opening up a Pandora’s Box of cultural clashes, paints a telling, but pessimistic, picture of the current strategic conflict between the two superpowers, from the ground-up.

    Image via Netflix.

    Despite the Great Firewall, Chinese netizens found ways to watch the documentary, that was made by Ohio filmmakers Steve Bognar and Julia Reichert. Temporary links to streaming and subtitle services litter the Chinese Internet, making any accurate count of total mainland viewership nigh-impossible. However, one indication of the film’s popularity among mainlanders was the 259,000 views for a trailer posted on Bilibili.

    One likely reason for netizens’ interest is that it neatly plays into Chinese state media rhetoric on the US-China trade war.

    The inevitability of China’s rise up the global supply chain (and a corresponding decline on the US side) is a recurring theme in opinion pieces penned by the likes of Xinhua and Global Times, but also an increasingly louder cacophony of bloggers.

     

    American Factory shows that the US will probably lose out to China in manufacturing.”

     

    One Chinese company (Wind资讯) posted on Weibo that “what Obama means in this film, in a very oblique way, is that anti-globalization will produce a lose-lose scenario.”

    The official Weibo account of Zhisland, a Chinese networking platform for entrepreneurs around the world (@正和岛标准) posted a review of the Netflix film titled: “Behind the Popularity of American Factory: Time Might Not Be on America’s Side” (“《美国工厂》走红背后:时间,或许真的不在美国那边了“).

    It warns the audience right off the bat to “not assume that this film will promote cooperation between China and the United States. In contrast, it will surely stir up mixed feelings among both audiences.”

    American Factory shows that the US will probably lose out to China in manufacturing,” Zhisland writes. The article argues that China will win out due to its lower labor costs, lack of trade unions, and more disciplined managerial styles. “It’s an uneven playing field,” the author continues: “Time may not be on America’s side.”

    Toward the end, the author claims: “We are about to enter a new era in which China will gradually become the most dominant player in the global marketplace.”

    The fact that many on Weibo shared these kinds of pieces as a reaction to the documentary suggests there is confirmation bias at work here. As is common on Weibo and other social media, comments on the pieces like the above simply rattle unsubstantiated claims, frequently descending into ad hominems.

    Another Weibo user (@用户Mr.立早) adds comments when sharing the above article: “The American workers repeat Trump’s mantra, but won’t act on it. They’ve been idling for almost a century. They’re hopeless.”

     

    “American Factory tells you: separate the US economy from China, and the US will go bankrupt.”

     

    Chinese state media also chimed in on how American Factory proved their most important talking points on the ongoing US-China trade conflict.

    Xinmin Evening News, an official newspaper run by the Communist Party’s Shanghai Committee, published an article by Wu Jian called “American Factory Tells You: Separate the US Economy from China, and the US Will Go Bankrupt” (“《美国工厂》告诉你:将美国经济从中国分离,美国会破产“).

    In this piece, Jian claims that “in the age of globalization, ties between China and the US cannot be cut. Using high tariffs to force U. S. manufacturing return to the States… is simply not realistic. Separate the US economy from China, and the U.S. will go bankrupt.”

    The article was also shared widely on Weibo. Thepaper.cn, an online news site affiliated with Shanghai United Media Group, published a review titled “American Factory: The Things that Are Spelled Out and the Things that are Implied” (“《美国工厂》:那些说出来的,和没有说的“).

    The author, Xu Le, writes: “What struck me most about the film was the look on the faces of the American workers. All of them … had the same burnt-out expression… Their faces reminded me of photos of people in the late Qing Dynasty. That dull expression reflects a civilization in decline.”

    “We’re a family at Fuyao” American workers listen to a rosy speech from their new bosses.

    In the film, When American foremen visit a factory run by glass manufacturer Fuyao in China, they are alarmed to see Chinese workers picking up glass shards without safety glasses or cut-resistant gloves.

    A Chinese worker picks up glass shards with minimal safety equipment, shocking his American co-workers.

    Xu comments: “Why is it that Chinese workers are able to put up with even more drudgery while being paid far less than their American counterparts? This is something we Chinese are very familiar with.”

     

    “Are you the glory, or are you the cost of the glory?”

     

    Qin Hui, professor of history at Tsinghua University, once argued that China’s economic growth isn’t because of economic liberalism or government oversight, but because of China’s refusal to guarantee certain basic human rights.

    In Maoist China, the state stripped the underprivileged of all political power in the name of the greater good dictated by socialist dogma. Post-Mao China continues to exploit the underprivileged, but now for monetary gain. He called it China’s “advantage” of “low human rights.”

    Despite the nationalism sentiment fanned by American Factory, it has also provoked reflection on China’s advantage of low human rights summarized by Qin Hui.

    Weibo user ‘Zhi21’ (@ZHI2i), a recent college graduate, writes on Weibo: “I just finished an internship at a factory. I worked 12 hours a day. More than 11 hours of every shift was spent on my feet without stopping, just to keep up with the assembly line. It didn’t make sense to me. After watching American Factory, I feel like American workers are lucky to only work 8 hours a day. That’s why the production costs are higher in the States. They pay too much attention to whether or not workers are comfortable.”

    Another Weibo blogger (@GhostSaDNesS) notes that “in American Factory, Fuyao employees believe that to work is to live. They defend the interests of capitalists while they are actively exploited. Unions in the West chose human rights, Chinese capitalists chose profit, and Chinese workers have no choice at all.”

    Some of these posts were apparently censored; threads that displayed as having over 200 comments only showed 12, and users complained that their posts were being deleted or made invisible to other users by Weibo censors. “They didn’t give any explanation,” one blogger wrote: ” I only expressed that I felt sorry for the people at the bottom. I didn’t question the system. I didn’t ask to change society.”

    Views like that of @Crimmy_Excelsior (“I was confused. Which country is the capitalist one and which country is the socialist one?“) are apparently sensitive enough to be taken offline – they touch upon the tension between the CCP’s espousal of Marxist-Leninism and the plight faced by hundreds of millions of Chinese that have their working conditions driven down by capitalist markets.

    Many users don’t buy into nationalist interpretations of the film, and argue that economic gain achieved at the expense of human rights is shameful. @陈生大王 raises a poignant question: “This is a glorious time for China, but I hope this film inspires you to think about who you really are as an individual. Are you the glory, or are you the cost of the glory?”

    “The cost of the glory” is derived from a quip popular on China’s internet. The Chinese government often urges its citizens to rally together, using the rhetoric, “We must win this trade war at all cost.” Some netizens then twisted the phrase, saying, “We must win this trade war at all cost, and we later find out that we are the cost.”

     

    “China’s prosperity did not just happen overnight – Chinese people worked hard to make it happen.”

     

    Even among those in favor of China’s controversial work ethics, there have been concerns over the status quo. Earlier this year, engineers in the tech industry publicly aired their grievances about their “996” lifestyle. The term refers to a high-pressure work schedule of 9am to 9pm, six days a week. This is the kind of life workers in Fuyao are living, with no hope of improvement – they are that the company would find a replacement in no time, making any form of complaining moot.

    Recent events in mainland China only increase the credibility of this representation. Factory workers at Jasic, a maker of welding machinery in Shenzhen, attempted to start a union last year. All those involved were fired. A number of college students and activists who actively supported the workers were detained and persecuted.

    According to the “China Labor Movement Report (2015-2017)” by China Labor Bulletin (a NGO based in Hong Kong that promotes and defends workers’ rights in the People’s Republic of China) “intensification of social conflicts, including labor-capital conflicts, has crossed a tipping point, and directly threatens the legitimacy of the regime.”

    More conspicuously, there are netizens that don’t buy the narrative that Chinese workers are innately “tougher” than their American counterparts. As user @胡尕峰 observes: “(In the film), a new Chinese CEO explains to his fellow Chinese that Americans have been encouraged too much growing up, and can’t take criticism. Chinese born after 2000 have been raised the same way! In my circle of friends, some mothers nearly faint when their babies are finally able to poop. Is China going to end up the same as America?”

    American Factory’s objective portrayal of cultural shocks between American and Chinese workforces clearly generated thoughtful reflections and incisive criticism from a sizeable number of netizens, while also being another reason for Chinese state media to highlight the rise of China in the global market.

    The chairman of Fuyao Group, Cao Dewang, made headlines this week with the quote: “China’s prosperity did not just happen overnight – Chinese people worked hard to make it happen.” “We indeed worked hard for it,” some commenters agreed: “That’s definitely true.”

    By Anna Wang and Eduardo Baptista

    Edited by Eduardo Baptista

    Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please let us know in comments below or email us. Please note that your comment below will need to be manually approved if you’re a first-time poster here.

    ©2019 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com

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