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China: If This is Neocolonialism, Bring It

Media professional and current events columnist Zhang Wen on current US ambassador to China Gary Locke‘s popularity among Chinese netizens due to such exotic behavior as buying his own coffee and flying economic class.

Zhang starts with CCTV host Rui Chenggang's attempt to humiliate Locke earlier this month at a Davos summit but tries to take on the view, also popular online, that Locke's unintended soft power is one carefully orchestrated scheme:

近日网上热传“警惕骆家辉带来的美国‘新殖民主义’”一文,读之令人有时光倒流之感,其观点、用词之陈旧,堪比冷战时期共产主义阵营的论调,充满了对美国的敌意。

作者完全无视世界合作和发展的大趋势,完全无视中美经济互利共赢的基调,整篇文章从政治、经济、军事和宗教等多个角度痛批美国的“狼子野心”,称美国将会把地球变成“一个弱肉强食的动物世界”。

我一点不奇怪于作者观点的陈旧,像他这样的人在当下还不少见,头脑并未随着时代的发展而发展,似乎还停留在冷战时代。我以为这源于对世界的隔膜,显而易见,作者对世界、对美国所知甚少,却任凭敌意在头脑中起风暴。

An essay warning that Gary Locke is bringing American ‘neocolonialism’ to China has been heavily circulated online these past few days. Reading it gives one the feeling that time is flowing backwards, and the antiquated views and vocabulary used hark back to the Communist camp of the Cold War era, full of hostility toward the United States.

The writer of the piece completely disregards the overall trend of cooperation between states throughout the world, as well as the key point of the win-win situation in the economic between China and the United States. The article manages to scorn the United States for its “bloodthirsty ambition” in aspects ranging from politics, economics, military affairs and religion, saying the USA is set to turn the entire world into “an animal kindgom under the law of the jungle.”

I'm not surprised by the outdated views held by its author, many people like him can still be found in China today, with a brain that hasn't managed to keep up with the changing times, almost seeming to have stopped growing at some point during the Cold War. I think, though, that this kind of thinking comes from isolation with the rest of the world, and it's easy to notice that the writer knows little about the world or the United States, and despite this has managed to fill his head with hostile rage.

Photo composite of Locke (top) and Rui from Weibo user Cheng Zhongshan.

作者认为骆家辉出任美国驻华大使,潜藏着“美国以华治华、煽动中国政治动乱的卑鄙用心”。作者还把骆家辉的轻车简从等同于早年共产党人的“不摆架子不讲排场”。作者进一步说骆家辉此举并非是为了给现在的中国官员们上课,而是“为美国收揽赢得中国的民心强化中国民众崇洋媚外的奴性,进而召集民意以壮大美国在中国的支持力量,借以分化中国断裂甚至碎裂的意识形态”。

单此一段,就足以证明作者根本就不了解美国的国情,而在那里擅自臆断。骆家辉在刚刚接受财新传媒专访时称,他对自己在中国普通民众中掀起的这股超人气有些意外。“我并未意识到有人在拍摄我和我女儿(在西雅图星巴克独自买咖啡)。实际上,你会发现大多数的美国政府官员都很随意,同时我个人也非常享受自己干活的乐趣,这是我的风格”。

The writer sees the appointment of Locke as the US ambassador to China as a sneaky attempt to ‘use Chinese against China, with the motive being to incite chaos in Chinese politics.’ The writer even equates the fact that Locke travels without a detail with the ethos of the early communists of “avoiding excess and putting on airs.” The writer then goes on to say that Locke's actions were not meant to serve as an example for Chinese officials, but rather “to win America the hearts and minds of the Chinese and strengthen their servility to all things foreign, and from there to call upon public sentiment to widely support strong America here in China, to divide and split China and smash its ideology.”

This statement alone is enough to prove that the writer lacks even the most rudimentary understanding of the American people, and from there he then goes on to jump to conclusions. In a recent interview with Caixin Media, Locke said that he's quite surprised with how popular he's become with average Chinese citizens. “I didn't realize that someone was taking a photo of my daughter and me (while he was ordering his own coffee at a Starbucks in Seattle). In fact, you'll see that many American officials act just as freely, and personally I happen to enjoy doing things for myself, that's just my style.”

骆家辉也对最近关于乘坐商务舱出席大连夏季达沃斯会议做了一番解释,“美国政府的规定是如果飞行旅程超过12小时,并且议程安排在着落后几小时或者次日,那么才允许乘坐商务舱。我在担任商务部长的时候,一般都是乘坐商业航班和经济舱。”
也就是说,骆家辉并非故意,更非“作秀”,上述种种“平民”之举乃是本色出演,是在美国政治体制下一个官员的应尽本分。倘不如此,反而是有问题了。试想,骆家辉敢和中国官员那样出行时警车开道,前呼后拥吗?如果那样,美国民众一定不会“放”过他,等待他的估计就是下课,回家“种红薯”了。

美国大使的本分之举,却被解读成“标志着信息时代新式殖民主义的高潮,标志着中美在意识形态层面冲突的全面爆发”。世界还有比这更荒诞的事情么?

这当然是无知的表现,更是心虚、不自信的表现。不管“新殖民”还是“旧殖民”,都是强势一方“侵略”弱势。实际上,作者是从另外一面承认了美国文化、价值观的强大,承认了我方的羸弱。如果不弱,还怕什么被“殖民”?

Locke also offered an explanation why he didn't fly business class to the World Economic Forum's Summer Davos in Dalian earlier this month: “The US government's rule is that if a flight will last more than 12 hours, or is booked last-minute or for the following day, then you can sit in business class. When I was Secretary of Commerce, I usually sat in business or economy class.”

In other words, Locke didn't intend any hostility, or to put on a “show.” What the writer interpreted as “acting” as one of the people was actually just a rule by which officials must comply under the current American system. Those who don't comply, have problems. Think about it, would Locke dare and try and do like Chinese officials do, having police clear the roads and bring crowds out to cheer their arrival? There's no way the American public would let something like that go, and I think that if he did try it what he would get is dismissed and sent back home to “tend the farm.”

An American ambassador is just doing his job, yet ends up interpreted as “symbolizing a surge in neocolonialism in the information age, and a head-on collision between China and the United States in the ideological sphere.” Is there anything in the world more absurd?

Of course, this is just the result of ignorance, but even more so of guilt and lack of confidence. It could be “neocolonialism” or just “old colonialism,” either way it's the stronger side “violating” the weaker party. When in fact, the writer is also admitting the power of American culture and values, and the weakness of ours. If we weren't the weaker side, what would we have to worry about being “colonized”?

[…]

令我欣慰也不意外的是,对于骆家辉所代表的美国“新殖民主义”,不少中国网民的反应是:不介意。有人甚至表示“热烈欢迎”。群众的眼睛真是越来越雪亮了,老套的意识形态和冷战思维越来越没有市场了。

What I find comforting, and unsurprising, is that the response of many Chinese netizens to the American “neocolonialism” that Locke represents is: I don't mind. Some have even said that they “warmly welcome” it. People are increasingly able to see things clearly, and outdated ideological and Cold War-era thinking are becoming increasingly unpopular.

1 comment

  • zhuzidi

    Rui Chenggang is a pompous ass and closet nationalist. I think anyone that’s seen him on CCTV knows this. It’s not really worth the time discussing him.

    Honestly I thought this was gonna be about “neocolonialism” in Africa or something. But buying some coffee? Seriously?

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