FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

China Daily Has Had Me!

by ANDRE VLTCHEK

The story is very simple: the 18th Congress of the Communist Party of China was just about to open, and one of the editors of the China Daily sent me an email from Beijing, to Nairobi, asking me to study the Chinese Constitution and to shoot a commentary on the upcoming reforms and changes, particularly on the “Scientific Outlook on Development”.

The correspondence took place just as I was departing Nairobi for Southeast Asia, via Cairo. The few hours I had in Egypt were packed with the meetings, as well as some last minute filming. And after more than 15 years I was encountering my dear friend Tsutomu Ishiai again, now the head of the African and Middle Eastern division of Asahi Shimbun, a man with whom I once spent several insane months in South America, covering the MRTA takeover of the Japanese Ambassador’s residence in Lima, Peru.

But how could I say ‘no’ to my Chinese Comrades? I was told that my commentary was very important, and that it would appear at the top of the list of all the commentaries (sort of ‘supreme commentary’). Being a disciplined Internationalist, I went into immediate and direct intellectual combat with the Western propaganda machinery.

I worked on-board a super-shabby Airbus-320 belonging to Egypt Air, all the way from Nairobi to Cairo. I worked in filthy hotel (defined as 5 star by the staff) that the airline booked me into. And I worked in a taxi, choking on the poisonous fumes of one of the worst traffic jams I have ever experienced in my life, between Heliopolis and Cairo.

I wrote, arguing against a report published earlier by Reuters:

… On this point, China should not try to ‘appease’ the West; there is no consensus possible, simply because for long eras it was the West itself that was dividing China, trying to keep it helpless, weak and under its boot. Only a naïve person would expect that a former and potential colonizer; that an imperialist would show some warmth, heartfelt respect and admiration for the liberation struggle against himself, and celebrate success of his former subjects.

But what about what was mentioned further in the report: the ‘harmony and capitalism’?

Revolution and Communism, harmony and capitalism: there is really no contradiction. Revolution and Communism won independence and gave China the foundations on which it now proudly stands. Then, harmony is the natural aim of each and every decent society. And capitalism? China had to adopt some of its elements; otherwise it and its people would have become isolated and poor.

There is an old Russian saying: “If you have to live with wolves, you have to learn how to howl like them!”

I read; I studied the Chinese Constitution amongst the chaos of Cairo airport, and then on board the Boeing 777 bound for KL via Bangkok. I liked it; it was a good Constitution, and it was really ‘red’, full of spice, and it put me in a good mood, even as the Egypt Air crew kept shouting at each other, determinedly avoiding any remote duty of serving the passengers.

I wrote as I was asked; I told them – my Chinese readers – about the main differences of life in the so-called East European Block countries, and in China. I told them that they now had well-developed light industries in China, they had consumer goods (plenty of them), and a variety of food products. Chinese citizens were able to freely apply for passports and travel wherever they wanted to, as long as they managed to secure visas. They had condoms, high-heeled shoes, plenty of booze and brand name watches. They had books by Bill Gates and Soros, much more of that stuff than the West had on Chinese or Soviet Communism. All for a fee, most for a ‘market price’, but they had it. Fine. Good for them. Let’s move on…

I did what I have been doing for years: I analyzed Western mainstream propaganda and the way it uses toxic and standardized clichés in their commentaries on China. I wrote
(correctly and accurately), about what the observations from London and New York would be like, once the Party Congress was over.

I landed in Kuala Lumpur and filed the story, mindful of the deadline. I had hardly slept for two nights.

And I wrote a note: “Just one request: please ask the editors not to tamper too much with the structure. This is a carefully, philosophically crafted piece, and the argument could collapse if they begin cutting or adding at will”.

* * *

The whole piece was returned one day later, butchered. No substance was left, just the grey of the official pen and several disconnected barks.

“Hope you can adjust your article and shift your legacy to the ‘Scientific Outlook on Development’, which is the biggest legacy of Hu’s leadership” wrote an editor.

I was pissed off at the China Daily staff for wasting my time (I was really looking forward to those classic Arabic movies on-board), and for butchering my analyses. But for once I was determined to ‘behave myself’ and to show some discipline. And there was nothing wrong with the Scientific Outlook on Development. I read the official definition of it; and it actually appeared to be quite fine:

To put people first, we should take people’s interests as the starting point and foothold of all of our works, make continuous efforts to meet various needs of the people and promote an overall development of the people. To enact comprehensive development, we should quicken the pace of building socialist political and spiritual civilizations while we constantly improve the socialist market economy and maintain coordinated, healthy economic development, thus constructing a structure that features mutual improvement and common development of material, political and spiritual civilizations…

Not bad, right? In Kuala Lumpur I had a few drinks savoring it! Then I quoted it in my new version.

* * *

Then the horror struck!

Now let me demonstrate what I wrote in the original text for China Daily, in the article that was immediately turned on its head, but with my signature still at the top!

First of all, since this was supposed to be my commentary; my own commentary (!), I was going to mention the Internationalism, which lately, I felt was disappearing from the Chinese official vocabulary:

The Soviet Union was rhetorically similar [to China], but practically its economy was full of loose ends and errors. However, to give the Soviets its dues, it is essential to point out that China is presently concentrating on its own development, while  countries like the USSR and Cuba sacrificed much of their own wellbeing for internationalist ideals: The collapse of colonialism in Africa, Asia and the Middle East would be unthinkable without their direct and indirect involvement.”

This part disappeared. Instead, the Comrades wrote this:

The Soviet Union made the strategic mistake of competing with the United States for hegemony by sacrificing its people’s livelihood, which led to a distorted economic structure and ultimately its collapse. The CPC learnt a lesson from the Soviet Union’s mistake.”

Eastern Europe was fighting against fascism and colonialism, at the same time as China, in its darker historical period in the 60’s and 70’s, was siding with the West!

I never could have, in my wildest dreams, written rubbish like that. And it is an absolute slander what the China Daily put into my mouth – words that still evoke a tremendous urge to vomit, when I read them!

To my request for an immediate withdrawal of the article, I received a Kafkaesque email from an editor:

“… Since you are a veteran journalist, you must be fully aware of the media process and know the difficulties. We appreciate your understanding.”

For years and decades I was sending to hell all types of mass media outlets, even those that were ready to pay US$1, even US$2 per word. I simply couldn’t care less how ‘their media process functions’, if their demanded lies in return.

Now I was horrified to see how some journalists of the ‘new China’ are combining Western slang and jargon with their personal ambitions.

China Daily, which wants to promote China and its culture abroad, recently rejected one of the best stories I encountered during this year – a story about one of the best Chinese pianists who selflessly traveled and performed brilliant classical concert (of Western, Chinese and Cuban music) for the most deprived children in Nairobi slums. And he did it, refusing all payments, simply because he is one great artist and real humanist. And he is my friend, and this is my China, Comrades, but obviously not yours, anymore!

Maybe if he would charge million dollars, you would print the story.

* * *

To put things in perspective, I have to say that my experience with the Chinese media in general has been excellent. My bilingual and quite philosophical series on the world – from Latin America, Eastern Europe and Asia Pacific – for the People’s Daily, had been wonderfully edited and received; the editors were gentle, hard working and highly professional people. There was absolutely no censorship and no cutting! And that’s the biggest newspaper in China, often defined as ‘official one’.

Andre Vltchek in front of the Communist Dragons in the Beijing Art District.

All the Chinese media outlets that interviewed me, from Xinhua to National Television in Beijing (CCTV) and China Radio International, were much less dogmatic and ideologically rigid than their counterparts in the West, running all that I said without any hint of censorship (Noam Chomsky, during our two-day debate at MIT in Boston, confirmed that he has been having the same experience).

But China Daily is known for re-writing people’s pieces, in fact for ‘using’ its writers. And what is disturbing, it likes to think about itself as ‘China’s window to the world’.

After my outrage, after writing that now I will be horrified to read the letters from my readers, an editor phlegmatically replied: “As to the readers’ letters, everyday our newspaper and our other contributors receive both praise and criticism. We welcome different voices. At least it means our stories are read and shared.”

Bordel!” I screamed. Yes, sure, I am ready to face any letters and criticism, and even to burn in cooking oil for what I write, but not for what you people put together, under my battered signature!

I got more:

“… Your piece is the most viewed op-ed piece on our website and some readers sing highly of your article. You won much praise among our readers and even gained a high reputation in Chinese media. That’s why last year so many Chinese journalists interviewed you and now you are really a well-known scholar in China.

“But this is not my piece!” I howled at the screen. “I don’t want anybody to read it!” I wanted to say the opposite about Russia and Cuba, about how great Internationalism is!

* * *

I don’t like to describe myself as a journalist… well, an investigative journalist, maybe. But you know Comrades, how can you identify a great journo, that dying species? It is a person who is able to see and describe his or her own reality: not going by that ‘objective’ crap cliché, not licking the corporate logo of the publication, but by writing what he or she sees and feels, smells and believes in. And you know what a great newspaper or magazine is: the one that can intuitively identify such a person, and respect him or her, and embrace them. Not many of those left of course, but some (like this one – CounterPunch), are still around.

I have to confess that I have never aimed at being an intellectual whore. Many things I have been, I admit, and not all of them could be described in flattering words, but a whore; a scribble-whore – no; not that! And I am not intending to change. I cannot change. Writing is my life; the stories are my life. I live them, I write them, I breathe them, I often come close to dying in order to uncover them; and then I carry them in my heart and with my bruised hands to the readers.

I don’t compromise. I say what I want to say. If it’s rubbish, it is my own rubbish, nobody else’s.

So this is my ultimatum to China Daily: No matter how big you are and no matter how small I am, you will publish my stories as they are, or I am not sleeping with you, anymore! You can correct my grammar, that’s fine. I am not a native speaker, so I will let you do that, but nothing more than that. You can either want to read what I write, from A to Z, or just write it yourself! So spoke the well-known scholar in China!

And please remember one more thing, Comrades: you may have lifted hundreds of millions of your people out of poverty… Yes you did. And it is great; it is much more than what countries like India or Indonesia or even the United States did during those long wasted decades… But there is a wide world outside your boundaries, and much of that world is still suffering. It is natural to help your own family, your clan. Every human, every animal attempts to do it. But the sign of true greatness is to help those total strangers who are in pain and agony, those who are totally unrelated to you. Internationalism is the most glorious; it is the ultimate expression of humanism. That is why Cuba is a thousand times bigger than its real size!

This is my own, personal message to your 18th Congress of the Communist Party of China: I am with you, but only as long as you want to help the world out of slavery, from Western imperialism, from misery. You already do your share, I know it; and that is why I wrote so much for you; virtually for free, to show you how bad things are but also how breathtaking is the world that has recently, once again, opened in front and all around you.

But please do more! And don’t you try to shut others and me up, when we tell you that we don’t care too much about the performance of your consumer industry or stock exchange. Don’t try to shut your friends up when they are telling you about Latin America and its great revolutions of today, or about the great sacrifice of the Russian people. You are big, but you may still need us one day. We love you, of course, but no love can be unconditional.

Andre Vltchek is a novelist, filmmaker and investigative journalist. He covered wars and conflicts in dozens of countries. His book on Western imperialism in the  South Pacific – Oceania – is published by Lulu . His provocative book about post-Suharto Indonesia and market-fundamentalist model is called “Indonesia – The Archipelago of Fear” (Pluto). After living for many years in Latin America and Oceania, Vltchek presently resides and works in East Asia and Africa. He can be reached through his website.

 

Andre Vltchek is a philosopher, novelist, filmmaker and investigative journalist. He has covered wars and conflicts in dozens of countries. Three of his latest books are revolutionary novel “Aurora” and two bestselling works of political non-fiction: “Exposing Lies Of The Empire” and Fighting Against Western Imperialism. View his other books here. Andre is making films for teleSUR and Al-Mayadeen. Watch Rwanda Gambit, his groundbreaking documentary about Rwanda and DRCongo. After having lived in Latin America, Africa and Oceania, Vltchek presently resides in East Asia and the Middle East, and continues to work around the world. He can be reached through his website and his Twitter.

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

Weekend Edition
February 24, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Exxon’s End Game Theory
Pierre M. Sprey - Franklin “Chuck” Spinney
Sleepwalking Into a Nuclear Arms Race with Russia
Paul Street
Liberal Hypocrisy, “Late-Shaming,” and Russia-Blaming in the Age of Trump
Ajamu Baraka
Malcolm X and Human Rights in the Time of Trumpism: Transcending the Master’s Tools
John Laforge
Did Obama Pave the Way for More Torture?
Mike Whitney
McMaster Takes Charge: Trump Relinquishes Control of Foreign Policy 
Patrick Cockburn
The Coming Decline of US and UK Power
Louisa Willcox
The Endangered Species Act: a Critical Safety Net Now Threatened by Congress and Trump
Vijay Prashad
A Foreign Policy of Cruel Populism
John Chuckman
Israel’s Terrible Problem: Two States or One?
Matthew Stevenson
The Parallax View of Donald Trump
Norman Pollack
Drumbeat of Fascism: Find, Arrest, Deport
Stan Cox
Can the Climate Survive Electoral Democracy? Maybe. Can It Survive Capitalism? No.
Ramzy Baroud
The Trump-Netanyahu Circus: Now, No One Can Save Israel from Itself
Edward Hunt
The United States of Permanent War
David Morgan
Trump and the Left: a Case of Mass Hysteria?
Pete Dolack
The Bait and Switch of Public-Private Partnerships
Mike Miller
What Kind of Movement Moment Are We In? 
Elliot Sperber
Why Resistance is Insufficient
Brian Cloughley
What are You Going to Do About Afghanistan, President Trump?
Binoy Kampmark
Warring in the Oncology Ward
Yves Engler
Remembering the Coup in Ghana
Jeremy Brecher
“Climate Kids” v. Trump: Trial of the Century Pits Trump Climate Denialism Against Right to a Climate System Capable of Sustaining Human Life”
Jonathan Taylor
Hate Trump? You Should Have Voted for Ron Paul
Franklin Lamb
Another Small Step for Syrian Refugee Children in Beirut’s “Aleppo Park”
Ron Jacobs
The Realist: Irreverence Was Their Only Sacred Cow
Andre Vltchek
Lock up England in Jail or an Insane Asylum!
Rev. William Alberts
Grandiose Marketing of Spirituality
Paul DeRienzo
Three Years Since the Kitty Litter Disaster at Waste Isolation Pilot Plant
Eric Sommer
Organize Workers Immigrant Defense Committees!
Steve Cooper
A Progressive Agenda
David Swanson
100 Years of Using War to Try to End All War
Andrew Stewart
The 4CHAN Presidency: A Media Critique of the Alt-Right
Edward Leer
Tripping USA: The Chair
Randy Shields
Tom Regan: The Life of the Animal Rights Party
Nyla Ali Khan
One Certain Effect of Instability in Kashmir is the Erosion of Freedom of Expression and Regional Integration
Rob Hager
The Only Fake News That Probably Threw the Election to Trump was not Russian 
Mike Garrity
Why Should We Pay Billionaires to Destroy Our Public Lands? 
Mark Dickman
The Prophet: Deutscher’s Trotsky
Christopher Brauchli
The Politics of the Toilet Police
Ezra Kronfeld
Joe Manchin: a Senate Republicrat to Dispute and Challenge
Clancy Sigal
The Nazis Called It a “Rafle”
Louis Proyect
Socialism Betrayed? Inside the Ukrainian Holodomor
Charles R. Larson
Review: Timothy B. Tyson’s “The Blood of Emmett Till”
David Yearsley
Founding Father of American Song
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail