Date of this Version
March 24, 2009 in The China Beat http://www.thechinabeat.org/
(In 75 minutes)
It’s no small task to sum up the work of 53 separate authors but I gave it a go last Friday at the Virginia Festival of the Book when I spoke about China in 2008. I shared the stage (and live C-Span connection) with Susan Brownell (who gave a fascinating presentation on the Beijing Olympics and Olympic education in the Chinese schools) and our moderator, UVA professor of politics Brantly Womack. The session turned into a lively discussion with the audience of about 45 about how we can find ways to more accurately represent (and then hopefully understand) China in the U.S. Here’s a quick list to give you a sense of some of the issues that the audience raised (and since I don’t have access to the C-Span broadcast, I’m going to have to wing it from memory).
1. Best question on the Chinese internet: “I thought China was a closed society. But you seem to be describing a different kind of media environment. Can you give some more examples of that?” It’s easy to forget, living in a little blog bubble, that not everyone is keeping up with the excitement and subterfuge of the Chinese internet. I referenced China’s Censorship 2.0 by Rebecca MacKinnon as evidence of how patchwork internet censorship is in China. But this question is also a reminder that the media’s emphasis on the “Great Firewall” has skewed general understanding of China’s media environment as a blackout zone.
2. Most complicated question: “The picture of China you are presenting doesn’t seem much like what I read in the news. Why is that?”