井底之蛙

8/31/2008

What can China learn from the Jews

Filed under: — Alan Baumler @ 7:27 am

Via 鲍昆 an interview with Lydia Liu1 Liu’s work has to to with the difficulties of cultural contact and translation in the 19th century, so it is nice to see a fairly mass-market magazine interviewing here about intercultural contact in this second age of globalization. Liu throws cold water on the idea that the “foreigner problem” (i.e. the fact that foreign media often publish things about China that sound like they did not come from Xinhua) is caused by foreigners having not been to China and not knowing Chinese. Liu doubts that a trip to China will make foreigners see the danger of “hurting the feelings of the Chinese people” 伤害中国人民感情 the way ‘China’ does.

I suspect as a scholar she found it rather difficult to fit her ideas into the interview, but I did find it odd that when she was asked how China could respond to accounts in Western media she suggesting taking a page from the Jews.

Apparently since WWII the Jews have set up a lot of non-government organizations aimed at combating antisemitism in the media. As the West has long had a problem with racism, people are particularly sensitive to being accused of it. If China could establish groups to push the idea that criticism of China is a fault on par with racism things would be better. i.e. China needs to translate its grievances into terms that make sense in the West.

I find this a bit questionable as practical advice, since it is not mere kvetching that has made even a hint of antisemitism unacceptable in polite society in the West, but rather the legacy of certain historical events. “China” may try to convince people that asking about the age of Chinese gymnasts is the equivalent of the Holocaust, but I doubt they will have much luck with that. I also think it would like to see more on why she thinks understanding 理解 is impossible between Jews2 and Gentiles (and, one assumes, between Chinese and non-Chinese.) Still, I think Liu is trying to bridge the gap in understanding between China and the West,3 so the interview makes a nice follow-up to Charles post below.

《瞭望东方周刊》:具体来说,如何对西方的媒体做回应?

刘禾:我们可以学习犹太人。犹太人从二战以来得到了很多教训,在全世界各地设 立了很多民间的监督站,监督针对犹太人的各种种族主义的言论和媒体报道。只要发现某媒体对犹太人进行直接或暗含的攻击,他们都有办法让对方负责任。几年 前,英国有个非常重要的报纸的主编最后就是因为这个在各种压力下被解职了。西方因为历史上种族歧视问题很严重,所以最怕被别人说种族歧视。

“种族歧视”恰恰成了犹太人的一张牌。他们没有要求说请你们理解我们,因为他们跟欧洲有过多少世纪的交往,知道”理解”是不可能的。

他们于是就非常智慧和策略地进入欧美人自己的话语,知道什么特别致命,就用什么去反抗。现在这一点已经在被印度人学习了。就是怎么样在媒体上成功地抵抗。

如果中国人能学习犹太人,在全世界用民间的力量监督对华人的歧视言论,就可以用非常少的资源做非常大的事情。根据我在美国20多年的经验,最有效的办法不是”请你了解我”,而是”你哪里错了”,并且用你的语言去指出你的错误。

比如CNN辱华事件,当时他们用了特别侮辱性的词汇,”无赖”啊之类,绝对是种族主义。其实他们不用说这么严重,我们就可以监督他。以正义的名义,以平等的名义,以民主的名义去监督种族主义,站在普世的高度去监督对中国人的歧视。

  1. originally from Oriental Outlook []
  2. Also not really sure if she means ‘Jews’ or ‘Israelis’ I know lots of Jews who understand Americans pretty well because they are Americans []
  3. while also demonstrating it []

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