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Modern China Is So Crazy It Needs a New Literary Genre (2016) (lithub.com)
196 points by ALee 10 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 126 comments



> First, the history is different. Chinese civilization has an unbroken history of five thousand years.

Despite that this is a inspired article, this sentence still interrupt my immersive reading. Such claim has always been ridiculous to me, but it is still too often spoken to be ignore. Chinese has unique own point of view to their history, which includes legends and myths. Check this ( http://camphorpress.com/5000-years-of-history/ ) if you have interests.


Personally, the facet of Chinese history that grates me the most is the pretense that China has a ~2200 year history of successive unitary states (I'm not going to take pre-Qin unification as credible).

When you compare Chinese history to European history, there's a lot more parallelisms than you might expect from the popular conception. The Qin unification in 221BC is fairly contemporaneous with the rise of Rome in the west (who dispatched the Carthaginians in 201BC and the remnants of the Macedonians by 146BC). The Han dynasty collapsed around AD184 (with the Yellow Turban Rebellion), which stabilized into a three-way (later two-way) partition by AD220 that lasted until Sui reunification in 589; this unification persisted until the collapse of the Tang dynasty in 907. Similarly, in the West, the Roman Empire collapses in the Crisis of the Third Century (235-284), and reemerges in a mostly permanent state of division between Western and Eastern Empires. The Eastern Empire persisted until its defeat in 1204, whereas the Western Empire disintegrated over the 4th and 5th centuries but recoalescing into a Merovingian dynasty (Clovis I reunited most of modern France and Germany by his death in 511, although it was promptly divided on his death) and later a unified Carolingian kingdom that became the Holy Roman Empire when crowned by the pope in 800. Although the empire again divided on Charlemagne's death, it did stabilize as a Kingdom of France in the west and a HRE in the east, with a contested bit in the middle.


Chinese history isn't longer than western history. But, I would say that Chinese commentators do have a greater sense of their own history than Western commentators. I have two examples to illustrate my point.

1) Confucius, if he existed at all, could have been a contemporary with Herodotus. How many modern statues of Herodotus can you think of? My guess is not many, but statues of Confucius in China abound. The Chinese government draws a certain amount of legitimacy in tying itself to Chinese history. How many Western governments are trying to draw legitimacy from ancient Rome or Greece?

2) Also consider that every Chinese people is at least familiar with a few lines in ancient Chinese books like Art of War, Analects, Dao De Jing and Han/Tang/Song poetry in the written language. Can you think of a comparable piece of Latin or Greek writing that the average Westerner knows by heart? How many people can recite Virgil and Homer? Bonus if they can do it in the original Latin or Greek.


> How many Western governments are trying to draw legitimacy from ancient Rome or Greece?

The West has used the aesthetics of the Roman empire as a basis for the trappings of power right through the modern period (see: Napoleon; US civic architecture). The direct reliance on legitimacy as deriving from a historical connection to Rome was basically only broken by the rise of the nation-state idea in the 19th century.

We still hold up the example of (a rather simplified view of) Athenian democracy as an example of the ancient legitimacy of democratic and republican institutions in some schools' civics classes.

Maybe it isn't as specific and concrete as the Chinese use of history for legitimacy, but I think the influence is there.

More fun info: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Third_Rome


> How many Western governments are trying to draw legitimacy from ancient Rome or Greece?

Overtly, very few if any. But look at the education curricula of the US--you get a large dose of Roman and Greek history. Discussion of the structure of US government literally drew parallels to the structure of the Roman Republic and Athenian democracy. Our government structures are designed in edifice to be replicas of the ruins of Rome of Athens. Even our math curriculum is derived from Greek mathematicians.

Where the difference exists is that Western countries do not claim to be an unbroken continuation from ancient Rome and Greece as China does.

> Can you think of a comparable piece of Latin or Greek writing that the average Westerner knows by heart?

The New Testament of the Christian Bible, which was written around the height of the Roman Empire after all, certainly before the Tang and Song dynasties you mention. Most people have probably read the Odyssey or the Iliad at some point (and definitely can relate the basic plots of these books). Writings of Plato are also pretty likely to be well-known to most people, but most especially philosophers. And I hear that doctors have to recite a famous passage from Hippocrates as part of their studies...


How many Western governments are trying to draw legitimacy from ancient Rome or Greece?

This is a taboo subject among Western politicians nowadays. The answer is that Mussolini's fascist Italy and Hitler's Nazi Germany did this all the time.

Also consider that every Chinese people is at least familiar with a few lines in ancient Chinese books like Art of War, Analects, Dao De Jing and Han/Tang/Song poetry in the written language.

I very much doubt that the average Chinese city-dweller, nevermind subsistence farmer, can recite those ancient works by heart.

Furthermore, I doubt any Chinese person, apart from a scholar, could actually write down a few lines from these works in the original seal script. I would even go so far as to say that the average Chinese person would struggle to write anything but the most common characters in modern Chinese without the use of a phone or computer.

If you're looking for a Western text comparable to the Dao De Jing that many Westerners know then look no further than the Bible. There are millions of people who can rattle off Bible quotes by heart.


That's why I wrote Chinese have greater sense of their own history. Many Westerners can rattle off Bible quotes but not text from ancient Rome and Greece. I can tell you with certainty that most Chinese do know at least a few quotes from ancient Chinese books.


>Furthermore, I doubt any Chinese person, apart from a scholar, could actually write down a few lines from these works

They might not know it but its still ingrained, influences their culture and laws.


They might not know it but its still ingrained, influences their culture and laws.

That's far less strong of a claim. If we're only talking about cultural influences then it's not hard to show how much of an influence the Epic of Gilgamesh, the Homeric Epics, and Plato's dialogues have had on Western cultures. It would be harder to point to a cultural element which had not been influenced by one or more of these ancient works.


> > How many Western governments are trying to draw legitimacy from ancient Rome or Greece? > > This is a taboo subject among Western politicians nowadays. The answer is that Mussolini's fascist Italy and Hitler's Nazi Germany did this all the time.

> There are millions of people who can rattle off Bible quotes by heart.

And how many Western governments claim to derive their legitimacy from biblical prophecy? (Whichever version thereof.) Israel comes to mind.

Talk about the elephant in the room!


Hmm but most "native Chinese" (Han) dynasties were fully conquered by invaders from the north/northwest multiple times (I think they almost rotated in power). The long unification is caused by its unique culture, whoever conquered the Han race become Han eventually which inevitably will be overthrown by Han.

So I don't think it hash that much parallelisms to European history history


Even the repetitive Sinification of the barbarian invaders who conquered China has a parallel in European history. The Western Roman Empire was overrun by various Germanic tribes. Yet after their conquest, they did tend to adopt a form of Roman culture that would define Western civilization. France, England, Italy, and Germany throughout the Middle Ages (and eventually Scandinavia, Spain, and the Baltic coasts as the era progressed) all shared the same common Christian religion, the heritage of the Roman civil codes, some Roman pastimes (such as bathing), the Latin language for ecclesiastical or administrative purposes (except where supplanted by French). This was adopted even by people who had no memory of the Romans, some of whom where even beyond the edge of the known world to the Romans.

The parallels aren't perfect, of course. But it should thoroughly dispel the notion that Chinese history is wholly unique and unreplicated.


The Han Chinese has the tradition of keep the official account of histories:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Twenty-Four_Histories

That is the official account of the Chinese history by the succeeding dynasty to record the important personals, their lives and big events from the previous dynasty.

That is a very unique tradition though. The fact that the ancient Chinese does recognize a chain of dynasties and heritage and succession therefore, is unique to China, not by other Western countries.


How much of that narrative is due to pruning though. China has a long history of extreme censorship after all. One of the first emperor's most notable acts was, after all, the destruction of much of the hundred schools of thought. There is also the issue of splinter states later being declared rebels and killed off despite hundreds of years of autonomy, and the current push to wipe out non-Han cultures within the borders of China (RE: the opening of the Chinese Olympic games, and the anti-muslim concentration camps going on now).

Point being: how much of that trend is real, and how much of it is useful propaganda spread down through the ages.


This same thing happened in South Asia, as Islamic and Mongol/Turkic conquerors came, but eventually embraced the greater South Asian culture as it existed and adopted it/assimilated. It's pretty silly for China to claim that they are the only such civilization.


Which brings to mind the "Persianisation" of everyone who conquered Persia. Not too sure how Alexander fits into this but bear with me).

Maybe it wouldn't be far fetched to argue that Eurasia had only 3 distinct persistent cultures: Romano-Greek, Persian/Islamic/Turkic, and Han. I know this is a gross simplification but it's not a bad framework to begin with.


He probably didn't fit the pattern. But we might underestimate the Persianisation simply because those aspects of Iranian culture the west took up, no longer look foreign.

Modern mens fashion (suits, pants, waistcoats) seem to have come from the Islamic world, especially Iran.

For example: early Roman emperors reseble latin-American caudillos more than they resemble medieval kings. Later emperors however introduced trappings of Royalty that we would still recognize, often in imitation of Iranian models.


I mean, strictly speaking everywhere has exactly as much history as everywhere else.

As for China, there was a concerted and largely successful effort to destroy its cultural heritage during the "Cultural Revolution", by the party that remains in power today. Hardly unbroken.


Are you saying the Cultural Revolution has largely destroyed China's cultural heritage? If so I'll have to disagree with you.


China did lose many.

Let's take religion as an example. In Malaysia, Taiwan, and Singapore, traditional temples are still "alive" with popular and active ceremonies, while most temples in China I went are just dead buildings: people lived there and do things have nothing to do with divine, CCP-permitted official events, foreign tourists, modern decorations that have no integrity, etc.

It's just sad to see those religious sites dying. The spiritual essence died, during exactly the Cultural Revolution.


Isn't religion looked at as a possible source of dissent against the government in China?


Since state atheism is the order of the day, of course.


Prevents organization or association other than the party


Why is that a bad thing? Religion has been the cause of much strife. Sure, you miss the nice parts when it’s gone. But I take one look at other societies that still fight over this arbitrary “faiths” which make no scientific sense and it makes me wonder if it isn’t a simpler world to not believe in the superstition of religion ( or at least treat it that way legally)


They were pointing out that this was a loss of cultural heritage. Personally, I'm not one to find much value in cultural heritage in the first place, but religious culture seems like a pretty clear example of culture that was stamped out.


Its interesting that Buddist religions don’t appear to encourage strife per se, my knowledge of asian religions is very spotty, but I don’t think they have the same wars and justification for violence as the western religions do.


Look at Sri Lanka, very bloody civil war between Buddhist majority and Hinduist minority. Atrocities done on both sides, ie at the end when rebels were losing and surrounded, state army was shelling civilians left and right. Another example - history of Ladakh province in northern India - conquered by buddhist armies some +-1000 years ago. Buddhist army, interesting term.

I also had this view that buddhism is a faith that promotes peace - which might be true, but you still have the same human beings behind it. History proves my naive idea wrong.


The current anti-Muslim pogroms in Myanmar (incited by the Buddhist clergy) would seem to provide a counter-example.


> traditional temples

If you mean buddhist temples, that's at max 2000 years of history.


I am happy to call something that has been going on for 2000 years “traditional”


Why, was Buddha around after Jesus then?


That take is pretty wrong. The current government is really heavy on emphasizing tradition, to the point of hamfisted revisionism about how the original communists behaved.

It's technically the same party but the gang of four were thoroughly repudiated by Deng and his successors. 10 years of insanity can't kill a culture.


My grandfather had a intern - a old former professor of radioactive chemistry who hole-hearted disagrees with your attitude. 10 years is a long time, ten years after a civil war after a world war is a eternity. People do not get education in that time, the whole hierarchys of institutions have allmost disappeared and all the knowledge is dated (one of the reasons those professors - who where send to pig-farms, had to reeducate in the west). Also the remnant of the rampage remains- aka, a youth who learned that in great masses- they can get away with anything, and have to bow to no rule.

Its hard to start a society again, if you really had a goverment supported near-anarchy for ten years.


Right, I think there's a distinction to be made between education-based cultural continuity ("we all learn Tang poetry in school") and personal cultural continuity ("I learned this knowledge/value/principle from my grandma/village elder/apprenticeship").

10 years is indeed a long time. It's not enough to break the education-based continuity, but it is absolutely enough to break the personal cultural continuity.

My experience of 15 years living in China is, very few people have experienced that personal continuity, to the point where disciplines like Chinese medicine, taiji, traditional music, etc, are best carried on by people in Taiwan or even the US.


I am curious about what exactly do you think culture revolution had broken.

Looking at other ethnic Chinese dominant areas, Hong Kong/Taiwan, which are supposedly unaffected by cultural revolution, I don't think the mainlanders are any way 'less' Chinesey than they are. The young people I met from HK/TW, their lack of understanding/knowledge of ancient Chinese history/literature is really embarrassing, yet they are pretty proud of such.

Not to mention that before KMT takes over, Taiwan had been colonized by Japan for 50 years, and Hong Kong by British for 100 years. If they can retrain/recover their Chineseness shortly after WW2, and being hailed as epitome of Chinese culture, I can't see how mainland China can't sustain its own culture from a 10 year madness.

Only thing I felt is probably I am personally less superstitious, thanks to the on paper atheism from the CCP.


Not really, or I should say it's hard to get rid of. Every educated Chinese will learn an amazing amount of traditional culture (commonly referred as poem of Tang dynasty and the verse of Song dynasty LOL) and also many articles of Classical Chinese (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Classical_Chinese). Damn I could still recite many of them after years. It's mandatory and counts a significant portion in most exams. When one got intrigued by the traditional culture, nothing basically stops him from dig in the history.


Even in Chinese schools we are told in history classes that we really don't have five thousands years of real history. It is just an often used, maybe canonized, phrase to emphasize our long history. I really would not get distracted over it.


I totally understand that situation because I have been through similar education in Taiwan about twenty years ago as well. Thankfully the history education here is saner now.

Back to the 5K-year claim. It seems just rhetoric, but it actually enlarges unnecessary national pride, and then rhetoric becomes an unchallengeable truth. The "truth" then sounds so true that foreigners starts to believe it without hesitation.

Once I had a chat with an American friend, about Chinese character system and its ability to maintain information through the past five thousand years. I was astonished that nowadays some foreigners might still view East Asia as the mysterious Far East.


The truth is China has at least 4000 years of history

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/speaking-of-science/wp/2...

> In a new paper published Thursday in the journal Science, Wu and his colleagues describe geological evidence for a catastrophic flood on the Yellow River in about 1900 B.C. — right around the time the “Great Flood” was said to have taken place.


Archaeology is easy to do badly. It is usually the case that the same evidence fits multiple interpretations. The proper way to do it is to treat archaeology as a process of winnowing out theories as they are found to be inconsistent with evidence. The wrong way to do it is to pick a theory you want to be true and to show how to fit the evidence into that theory (especially because the temptation is strong to discard evidence that is inconvenient for the theory, hoping no one will notice).


https://whc.unesco.org/en/tentativelists/5805/

There are tons of cases of non-myth non-bullshit sites in China, and yes, unrecorded in traditional history.


I imagine the Yellow River has suffered numerous catastrophic floods in its history, and some must certainly 'line up' with various other historical and ahistorical events.


On the other hand, the Kurds who run the phone shop up the road from where I used to live, can lay claim to about 7000 years of continuous recorded history, as they are Erbil locals.


Yes it's astonishing how Alexander and people had dealings with Kurds who seemed to interact politically with the rest of Mesopotamia much as they do today.


It's rhetoric, then.


They do have 5000 years of history. But then you compare guys who carve precursors of Chinese characters in bones with guys who build pyramids in Egypt at that time.


There's a short mention about food safety and how ordinary citizens worry about this - I'm in the USA and I and the people I know always inspect the food we eat for country of origin and never purchase anything from mainland China. On the one hand factory farming in the USA means we have to worry about stuff like e coli and safe food handling but that pales in comparison to the risk of feeding your children lead or melamine because the producer was purposely trying to pinch pennies.


In Australia we have an issue with people buying baby milk powder here and sending it to China. You get people clearing the shelves to do it.


business opportunities


What kinds of food have you found to have been made in China?


Many products in Asian supermarkets are made in China - we try to buy from brands that manufacture in other Asian countries if possible, or the USA.

Some examples: - spices and condiments for chinese cooking, - seeds, nuts, and canned vegetables that are not common here - asian meat preparations like fish ball, vietnamese beef ball


This seems to be pretty prevalent in the Asian-American population. I wonder if this is filtering out to the general population.

I've been told many times by members of the older generation to never buy food made in China. Stories (rumors?) of plastic mushrooms and polluted ingredients abound.


I did that until I discovered the Lao Gan Ma (Old Godmother) brand of chili sauce.

It’s just too good to care.


Is this the stuff with the little garlic bulbs in it? What’s a fair price to pay?


They have a couple different flavors. My favorite is the one with peanuts in it. I don’t recall seeing garlic bulbs.

It looks like this:

http://nymag.com/strategist/article/lao-gan-ma-best-chili-sa...

At Asian supermarkets, they should be less than $5. I usually see them them at Ranch 99 (a Chinese chain supermarket) for 3.99.

But the price can vary if you go to a predominantly Korean or Vietnamese supermarket.


For a while one of the frozen vegetables packages in Costco listed one of the countries of origin as China (IIRC they stopped selling it due to ironically a Listeria outbreak from a us sourced vegetable and I ate all of my recalled package because safe handling/cooking is adequate treatment). Also go to Asian markets for spices and other staples and make sure to get stuff sourced in Korea, Japan, Taiwan or USA.


I've seen garlic from China in non-Asian supermarkets before.


Same, I saw it in Seattle. Which is mind-boggling because tons of garlic grows on the west coast


Yes, on the other hand have heard how shipping stuff to/from China is so cheap that Tyson got permission to ship frozen chickens to China for manual processing, then shipping the processed chickens back to the USA because it might be economically feasible at some point though they probably just use that to force down labor costs in the USA. https://www.newsweek.com/2014/10/10/curious-case-chinese-chi...


China grows an enormous amount (~80%) of the world's garlic so it's not that surprising.


Aldi in New Hampshire has garlic from China, as of last year at least.


This is the most obvious one: http://mummums.com/ At one point, you could even find it in WholeFoods.

I'm sure there are more in terms of processed food. I used to look at processed food packaging for babies and toddlers very closely. There are actually a lot of processed foods where the country of origin is just not listed. If you read carefully most of them just list the country where the food was packaged and not where the ingredients were sourced. When you call them to ask, their customer reps have no answer. Emails go unanswered as well. It could also be just be sourced locally, but they just suffer from a lackadaisical PR dept.

I wouldn't be surprised if cod & tilapia from China end up in the US restaurants and supermarkets as well


Australian here, and same. We won’t buy food made in China.


Is it just me or do all of these things seem very reasonable, even tame by novel standards? All of the examples are exciting stories, but nothing that doesn't show up in your standard action movie.


The difference is that you don't just know that it has actually happened, but also you are footing the bill for it.

As a Russian I find chinese ultra-unrealism pretty wimpy. We've got cooler, more fierce stuff.


Are there forums / collections of Russian ultra-unrealism? Ideally with English transaltions -- would love to read some but I don't understand Russian.


You could probably start from The Moscow Times, though they are rather softcore.

https://themoscowtimes.com/articles/krasnodar-judge-throws-2...

Then nobody was sure that this judge had ever study law. She said she went to some college in Georgia (the country) which said she's not on their records.


Is Roadside Picnic from Russia?


It's from the Soviet Union, but basically yes.


Read the mentioned occurrences and thought: these would make a lame movie.


Is "cyberpunk dystopia" truly insufficient?


Maybe if you dial the “punk” down to zero, dial the “dystopia” up to 9, and maybe “cyber” is around 3 or 4 depending on how futuristic modern day China is.


Orwellian dystopia with a hint of cyber


The best comparison I heard of was "China is something in between Desneyland and Buchenwald"



The issue is that you likely wouldn't have said that about China either 10 years ago or even 5 years ago. I don't think you would have used cyberpunk at all. Thats where the unreal comes in.



for the record, that’s a picture of hong kong, though it is a part of china, it’s not representative of where most of these “stories” happen


This was a great article. Usually I get a distinct "translated from Chinese" vibe, but not here! I thought that the translation must be very good. Can Anyone who has read the original comment?


Agreed. The only thing that really jumped out at me as "translated from chinese" was the "As you all know" (I assumed translated directly from 众所周知)


Any rapid growing/evolving country is a crazy and super-dangerous/disastrous evolution. You can't evolve fast and well, you can't avoid mistake when changes happen and the more concentrated changes the more mistake you'll get...

Often after some time evolution start to became for reaction an involution and if people in that country are lucky evolution+involution result after some time in a new stability "golden period", but that's rare...


Does anyone have a link to the original Chinese?


Possibly http://www.bjwl.org.cn/wwwroot/bjzjw/publish/article/657/530...

Edit: actually, the English version appears to have been adapted significantly, providing details that would either require no explanation for a Chinese audience, or that could get the author into trouble with the authorities. But the version that the translation was actually based on might not be public.


Interestingly, while reading the text and with zero knowledge of the novel he's talking about, I always assume the text's author to be a woman. Does anybody know the guy? Are his novels also like this?


China does need a modern religion for expansion of the influence sphere, not just literature, that's why the officials are in touch with Vatican.


This article on China's recent crazyiness doesn't mention its long-standing oppression of minorities. It looks as though getting at the obvious root of the obvious problem is not on the table.

That said, there's plenty of madness at loose in the world. When we in the US get our own house cleaned up, finger-pointing will see less absurd.


It also misses the affirmative action given to these minorities. For example, extra exam points to get into college, secured government jobs, and the biggest is they were not bound by the 1-child policy.


My understanding is that China aims to integrate its minorities completely (which is how the current Han came to exist) while in America the majority wants nothing to do with minorities.


Yup. While the US had anti-miscegenation laws, China gives bonuses to inter-ethnic marriages.


At least they do not seem to have oppression by minorities. One important ultra-unreal piece they don't have.


Maybe "oppression" is too strong a word, but some definitely take advantage (in a negative context) of others because of their status. For example, I work on a gov't site where we are required to buy from minority-owned groups. Well they know this so they charge outrageous prices when selling to us and we can't do anything about it. This is with tax money to boot.


Minority race get 6 bonus points for free in college entrance examination, in Henan that could mean 60-120k up In the rank


.. could we have just one humanist piece about life in China without people breaking out the battle axes? We don't shoehorn the Iraq war into everything about America.

We could do with a lot more understanding and a lot less context-free outrage if we're gonna get through this century with the peace intact.


Actions that cost lives should always be front and center.

Maybe we should be talking more about the Iraq war in the USA, considering our actions led to the death of hundreds of thousands of people.

I contend the opposite: The only way to survive the next century is if we identify sources of death and misery, and (try) to hold leaders accountable to stamp them out.


The Chinese government has overwhelmingly reduced death and misery within their borders. Half a billion people moved from third world to first world. Half. A. Billion.

And their big foreign policy power play consists of building infrastructure for other third world countries. Turns out you can do that for 10 countries cheaper than invading one.

Yet the popular opinion ever since dragonfly was proposed is that they're the worst country ever. How about some perspective?


>And their big foreign policy power play consists of building infrastructure for other third world countries.

We'll ignore the whole part about stealing everyone's intellectual property as a matter of business and that activity in the South China Sea. How about Taiwan?

>Yet the popular opinion ever since dragonfly was proposed is that they're the worst country ever.

People criticize their shitty actions because they are shitty. Nobody said they are the worst country at all. They just said that a company who cares about organizing the worlds information and not being evil shouldn't partake in oppressive censorship.


The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, eh?


More like: Life is complicated and not black and white.

The Chinese actions in Xinjiang are an overreaction, and wrong, but:

1) Every western country has an equivalently bad record regarding reaction to terror attacks and/or separatist movements.

2) Nobody in the tech community cared until the dragonfly thing came up and they all went on wikipedia looking for reasons to hate China.

The way people talk about China these days reminds me of McCarthyism more than humanism. I have to wonder, if China were less successful, and the people were poorer, would they be less upset? They're fine with buying cheap goods, after all..


> Life is complicated and not black and white.

vs. stuff like

> yet the popular opinion ever since dragonfly was proposed is that they're the worst country ever.

and

> Nobody in the tech community cared until the dragonfly thing came up and they all went on wikipedia looking for reasons to hate China.

Nobody cared? Went on Wikipedia looking for reasons to hate China? Is anyone allowed to guess about the causes of such sophistry, or does that just go one way?


Check the record. We didn't have 3 hate pieces a day on China hitting the front page of HN until dragonfly.

Maybe you want to take a crack at why?


It's not hate pieces to talk about building military bases out of nothing in international waters, claiming they are now your territory, kidnapping the head of Interpol, kidnapping people in Hong Kong and other countries who write and complain about China. It's the truth.


Ok, you're not wrong, but you could make similar-caliber complaints about any of the rest of the UN security council. Or Israel. There's a whole cottage industry writing about them.

How come China specifically rockets to the top of HN whenever someone finds some negative press? And why did it start after dragonfly was proposed?


I do point out issues with other countries, like Isreali settlements, us supporting Saudi Arabian war in yemen. China is a lot more powerful than most other countries (like the us) and needs to stop acting like a bully, as the us needs to be careful to do too.


I'm not up for games around something as important as this. Face what I wrote, or let your inability to do that be the answer.


You wrote a couple of sentence fragments in between my quotes, it's not clear at all what you were trying to say.

But you're right that it's important. We've got to keep building up cultural connections and avoid a cold war. Everyone loses from that. It would be a travesty to give up the amazing human gains of the last 30 years.


I was trying to say that you are using a very black and white view yourself. E.g. you haven't witnessed even one person actually "hitting WP to find reasons to hate China for", but outright state that goes for everybody criticizing China.

And I can't say much about "hate pieces" or whatnot just yet, I only just started to track the rank, score, and comment count of HN stories. So far it seems to go both ways, both things critical of China and positive articles can get penalized. I started doing it because I was suspicious, but then I continued doing it because it helps me find interesting things I would otherwise not have seen (at least not on HN).

For example:

https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=18595215 https://i.imgur.com/inbQSJe.png

That was never higher than page 6 (the colored bands are pages). And frankly, that's a more interesting and solid article than anything else I saw on HN about that "CRISPR baby", including comments. Oh by the way, did you know the doctor is now missing? If you do, it's not thanks to HN:

https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=18594814 https://i.imgur.com/0YTEwj4.png

This one had plenty traction, but wasn't allowed to run its course in peace either:

https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=18591521 https://i.imgur.com/jHZMjBf.png

(all graphs go from right to left, dots are in 5 minute intervals, rising line is number of comments, and there green dots mean < 10 comments, yellow < 100, orange < 1000 comments)

To be fair, here's one example I spotted where something got flagged that was not critical of China, and while I can't judge the quality of the article compared to others on the subject, I would say it's a perfectly fine and interesting topic for HN:

https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=18600499 https://i.imgur.com/GiduxhB.png

It's too early to tell, ask me again in 3-6 months. Manipulation of public discourse, even if it's by said public itself, by groups flagging what they don't like, by definition has a public effect that can be measured. Drawing conclusions as to why something is happening is much harder than to find out whether it's happening, but even that will take time. Though the end result will probably be "it's a mess, all sorts of fuckery going on, impossible to tell where one sort of fuckery ends and the next one begins". I do not envy the moderators of this site, that's for sure. But it'll make pretty graphs so there's that.


How can you tell whether something was flagged or simply fell in rank due to relative lack of upvotes?


I compare every story with all stories (minus sponsored stuff) seen at that same moment, which are ranked higher, have a lower score, have the same or higher number of comments, and are older. All of these conditions must be met for it to "count". Bonus points if the story with a lower score but higher rank etc. is on page 1, but the story in question is not. Then I add all such instances, divide that by how often the story was seen in total, and that's the "fuckery level", basically.

For the stories I mentioned here's the "worst moments", first column is rank, second is age in minutes, third is score:

https://pastebin.com/r4vjFvVW

I'm trying to err on the side of caution where I can, eg. since a high number of commments can penalize a story IIRC, and I don't know what that number is, I only compare with stories that have less or same number of comments. One thing this can't account for is penalties for getting a lot of comments in a short amount of time (different from total number of comments), so I just ignore that. And instead of figuring out the actual age of a story, I take the "N minutes/hours/days ago" at face value. That also sometimes gets adjusted, here's an example of a very benign post:

https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=18588069 https://i.imgur.com/PnOCfJP.png

The vertical line is the age jumping to a lower value than it had in the previous timestamp. If I had to guess, I would say this story was flagged by users, then the flags were removed by mods, and shortly after the age was lowered, because it was already too old so removing the flags didn't have much of an effect. Or maybe that's automatic, I have no idea.

Two more examples of adjusted age, though with these I recorded no instances of what I described initially (stories with lower score being higher and all that)

https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=18598179 https://i.imgur.com/ZuUUpQL.png

https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=18587956 https://i.imgur.com/CwX6mEQ.png

I have no conclusions at this point, but already the strong feeling that it'll be hard if not impossible to draw conclusions. One thing I want to try is to overlay the course of stories that "ran their course" (maybe haven't been seen in the top 10 pages for 3 days or so) into one image, but I need a whole lot more data for that to be useful. I ignore all stories that were already existing before I started this, so it's all still very sparse:

https://i.imgur.com/wvt0et0.png

Notice the occasional shifting up of things, I have no idea what that is yet. The black "lines" are sponsored stories (like $company is hiring $position etc.), i.e. no data for that spot.


1) I definitely think the hate is organic rather than 'manipulated'. It's an angry mob.

2) Most if not all of the china-haters display an astounding lack of context or cultural/historical awareness when talking about China. At their absolute best, they're presenting the xinjiang thing with no context and attempting to define the entire country with it (my wikipedia snark). Or reciting their 5th grade lessons about Russian communism as if that's relevant. At their worst.. it gets really ugly.

Here's what I think is going on: They're against dragonfly 'on principle', but then they hear the case about increased access for Chinese people being a net good. This causes dissonance. How to resolve it? Make the Chinese the bad guys. No more dissonance.

Those of us who know recent Chinese history are very suspicious of such ideological righteousness.


The only dissonance is your own. Nobody is making the Chinese the bad guys. They are criticizing the Chinese government, which is certainly not representative of the Chinese in any way given that it is not elected and it crushes critics.

Google search might be convenient for citizens, but claiming that convenience outweighs the moral forfeiture of Google rubber stamping political censorship is a huge jump.

If you don't care about censorship, then it might be obvious to you that Google should move into China. It's not to people who care.


How sure are you that calling people "China-haters" is not a means to resolve your own cognitive dissonance?

> then they hear the case about increased access for Chinese people being a net good. This causes dissonance.

Not for me, since it's not about "what's good for Chinese non-dissidents", it's about what people who aren't already complicit with totalitarianism must not make themselves complicit with. You can do what you want, but I'll withdraw my support. If someone is a friend with someone who normalizes totalitarianism, I won't be their friend. Nothing more, nothing less, and from where I'm sitting, not my loss at all. What you think turns it all around to a "net good" doesn't even register for me, it's like a few grams on one end of the scale, hundreds of tons on the other.

I'm the kind of humorless German who thinks Germans who "don't want to be bothered about history" should not be allowed to vote (well not literally, but I have no respect for what they are "comfortable" with, I respect history and the demands it places on us, on anyone who would call themselves intellectual doubly so). Compared to that, China and Google and the US have nothing to move me with. There isn't even anything there to hate, for me. They are noobs in a very real sense, never achieved basic mastery in anything I would consider crucial and the minimum, and now innoculate themselves against said mastery. I'm pretty sure that's the distinction between "noob" and "newbie". Oh, and everybody looking down on them is a "hater", can't possibly be someone who knows something they don't. It's always virtue-signalling, never virtue. What must not be can't be.

I can't speak for anyone else. But if you implicitly lump me together with someone I may utterly disagree with on a thousand things, then I'll talk back.


https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=18611135

2 fluff pieces, and the story that the linked comment attached to flagged off the front page right quick.

Maybe you want to take a crack at why?


> Nobody in the tech community cared until the dragonfly thing came up and they all went on wikipedia looking for reasons to hate China

Speak for yourself. I've been working on privacy projects like TOR for years and have been critical of the GFW since long before dragonfly.

>have to wonder, if China were less successful, and the people were poorer, would they be less upset

Nope. Probably even more upset. People aren't happy about North Korea either and North Koreans aren't rich. I'm happy Chinese citizens are doing better financially. I'm disappointed in their oppressive government.


>We don't shoehorn the Iraq war into everything about America

Yes, we do. Anything gushing about a country always brings people out to point out the flaws in fawning over it. The only thing that seems to be unique is using whataboutisms in criticisms of pro-china articles as if the Iraq war excuses abhorrent behavior in China.

Again, the US constantly fucks up, but that has nothing to do with criticism of China on an article about China.


> 3) It is has the quality of a fable or an allegory. Reality itself has the quality of a fable.

In recent years I have been seeing this over and over, not just in China but also in the West. Two examples are the rise of Trump and Brexit.


Well we forget history. Can you imagine how bizarre the Russian revolution or World War I would have felt to someone living through it?


This sounds a lot like Pelevin's turbo-realism to me. It's probably not a coincidence that that movement arose in early post-communist Russia, when the present were similarly unmoored from the past.


This should have a 2016 tag :)


The article this was translated from was written in 2015


That's important, because China hadn't rolled out the "social credit" system back then.

China has a new approach to control. It's not Orwellian. It's not the USSR's. It's not a police state. It's a new thing. It's the gamification of authoritarianism.

The previous system of control was run through the "work unit", when almost everybody worked for the state. The party mostly acted through work supervisors, rather than cops. That started to come apart once there were more private employers. The social credit system is an attempt to get back that level of control. It's going to be interesting to see how this works out.


> It's the gamification of authoritarianism. ... It's going to be interesting to see how this works out.

And like all gamification systems, it's already being gamed.

The citizens and enforcers who figure out the tricks win, everyone else suffers, and resentment builds.


good,china needs a regime change.their status quo has been propped up artificially for too long


By what? China's 5-10% annual growth in standard of living makes up for a lot.


it doesn't apply in 2018? ;) anyways, the rules here are "randomly" applied... it's a bit like a "communist" country... it has a bunch of rules but they are being applied selectively.


That's mostly because we don't see everything. If you or anyone notices a case that needs taking care of, please let us know at hn@ycombinator.com.


have you thought about implementing software solutions to optimize your omnipotency? seems like a lot of it could be automated...




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