MY DAUGHTER ONCE asked me if we were “pro-China”.
“Sweetheart,” I replied. “We’re pro-everyone. We’re pro-China, pro-Hong Kong, pro-West, pro-East, pro-South and pro-space aliens, especially the latter.”
Why would you be not pro any community or nationality? This is the age of diversity.
My immediate family includes Americans, Chinese, Brits, and South Asians, and I have several friends whose bizarre behaviour strongly suggests off-planet origins—and the same surely goes for you too, dear reader.
At this point, someone will always lean into this type of conversation and say: “Ah, but are you pro-Beijing?”
To realize how ridiculous this is, look a Swede in the eye and ask: “Are you pro-Stockholm?” Ask a Honduran: “What do you think of Tegucigalpa?” Or grab a passing Bolivian and ask: “Are you in favor of La Paz?”
People around the world don’t generally ask that question.
What the pro-Beijing question really means is: “Do you support the Western media’s demonization of China?”
Now THAT I can instantly answer. Actually, no, I don’t. Criticising others can be okay, if done sensitively and with positive intentions. Demonizing people is not.
Many Hong Kong people are stunned at how so much of the world’s media has ended up like US Republican lawyer Gordon C. Chang, following a Western-penned hyper-critical narrative of China, and blithely dismissing any criticism of his constant de-humanizing of Chinese people. “Demons just hate being demonized,” he explains.
But Chang’s hostile angle permeates too much of the international coverage of Hong Kong and mainland China today.
I’ve lost count of the number of Hong Kong people who have looked at the ultra-hostile BBC coverage of Hong Kong and said to me: “What happened to the BBC?” (I usually reply: “Maybe Gordon C. Chang is now chief news editor” and they sadly nod, finding it totally believable.)
Maybe it’s not the journalists’ fault. Andrew Cline, a professor who studies this subject, once said: “Once a master narrative has been set, it is very difficult to get journalists to see that their narrative is simply one way, and not necessarily the correct or best way, of viewing people and events.”
Cline is right. We need to break free from that the narrow groupthink and let a little diversity into discussions.
- What if. . . China wasn’t a giant gulag at all, but a low-crime society which is thriving at astonishing rates?
- What if. . . Hong Kong’s security laws were demonstrably less draconian than those of the countries criticizing them?
- What if. . . the hundreds of millions of dollars that America spends to try to impose its system of governance on Asia is actually money that would be better spent on other things?
- What if. . . China was communist in name, but actually demonstrated a really interesting mixture of good bits of capitalism and socialism in practice?
I have discovered, to my delight, that the vast majority of ordinary people are completely open to such notions. But Western journalists less so. How can a tiny group of Hong Kong people battle global media behemoths?
Clearly we can’t. But I’m not sure we have to fight them. Journalists are not bad people. There are many good ones among us. I expect. Probably. Maybe. Hopefully. Surely!
And those of us who live in China can gently, perhaps, encourage them to see the other side of the story, by sharing stories of Chinese culture, Chinese business and just personal stories of Chinese people being human.
Time to ditch the labels and choose diversity
In directly related news, the Friday project has been running for a couple of weeks and response has been fantastic. More than a million people tuned into our conference, and the vast majority of people who responded to our articles have been positive.
Only a small portion made a response which can be summed up in four words: “Run! Get the Labels!”
To people who throw the label “pro-China” at us as if it was an accusation, I’ll simply give the same answer I gave my daughter.
Yes, we are pro-China. We are pro-humans, sweetheart. And the people of China are humans too, whatever Gordon C. Chang says.
Nury Vittachi is editor of Fridayeveryday, a Hong Kong-based journalist and author, who gained fame through his witty comedy-news writing. He deviates from the conventional “journalistic” style and uses creativity to expand the meaning of journalism. His work does not just make you laugh, but reflect.
The story was published on Fridayeveryday, an English online platform that shares evidence-driven insights on Hong Kong and China.