Sunday, February 05, 2006

No Negative News

I just wanted to report that there is no negative news from China today.

Perhaps it is a general trend in news reporting, or simply the nature of news itself, but the vast majority of news I get about China these days (and for the past 5 years) is negative. I do not question the "objectivity" of reporting, just the selection of topics. The site I get a lot of China stuff from is China Digital Times. Check it out for daily emails on China-related reports in the media. But let's think a little before we report another peasant uprising.

In one of the best classes I ever took, Maria Lepowsky taught us about "Anthropology by Women" (my emphasis). Although the class was 30-3 female-male, the focus was not on feminism per se, but on women: what women anthropologists have done, their influence in the field. Focusing on women is a choice of topic. Feminism, properly speaking, attacks domination and defines mainstream institutions as patriarchical. Instead, in Lepowsky's class at the University of Wisconsin, we chose to study the work of women.

In Zhongguancun, a million wonderful things happen everyday. Computers are assembled, migrants learn technical skills to fix photocopiers, the local government assists new start-up companies, and people live their lives. Most of them are happy. There is no ominous specter looming over everything.

Of course, Zhongguancun is not the countryside, which is the new "darling" of Western media reports on China. But Zhongguancun is surrounded by the countryside. In my travails in and around Zhongguancun, I had occasion to visit the countryside many times. What I encountered was not anger over land grabs or vitriol at the government. Instead, people yearned for a bigger piece of the pie. At the same time, countryfolk are extremely cognizant that life in China today is better, far better, than it was in the past.

The point of this post is only to draw attention to the fact that all the news out of China today is extremely negative. Perhaps happy peasants are not very interesting. But they far outnumber the unhappy ones. Is there a motive in reporting the bad rather than the good?

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