Commentary from the Web, Week 30, 2020

From the Asia Pacific Journal

A Fearful Asymmetry: Covid-19 and America’s Information Deficit with China

There is a longstanding and fundamental asymmetry in the level of mutual understanding between the US and China. Chinese citizens are avid consumers of American media and cultural products, whereas most Americans are woefully unfamiliar with even the basics of Chinese history and culture. This asymmetry has resulted in a situation where the US is in danger of misinterpreting or misunderstanding Chinese motivations in bilateral relations, particularly in times of crisis. This paper recounts how the Covid-19 epidemic of 2020 exacerbated existing tensions between the US and China, and how these escalations in state-to-state conflict were in large part due to America’s information deficit with the PRC.

To read the article, copy and paste this URL into your browser: Moser/5422/article.pdf.

Thanks to Rasheed Griffith for this one.

From the New York Times, July 22

Opinion Today: Would he have lived in China?

Yi Rao is a doctor and professor of medicine in Beijing who comes from a family of doctors. He has lived in both China and the United States, and has family in both countries, too. In his moving essay, Yi writes about how his uncle Eric died from Covid-19 in Queens when New York City was an epicenter; his family in Wuhan, where the virus first emerged, survived.

Yi’s father, a retired pulmonary physician, “is struggling to accept his brother’s death partly, too, because he believes that he could have treated Uncle Eric — that Uncle Eric would have been saved in China.”

Yi writes: “As the pandemic rages on in the United States and elsewhere throughout the world, with some smaller outbreaks in China, the United States and China are not collaborating, but competing, in the search for a successful vaccine for the virus and treatment measures for the disease.”

You can sign up for the New York Times’ free Opinion Today column on the newspaper’s webpage.

Understanding the Chinese political system

The Chinese way of meritocracy, a video by Zhang Weiwei

The Chinese political system, like its economy, has changed beyond all recognition in the past 50 years. Chinese governance systems have been adapted on much the same basis as its economy: improving on things that seem to be working, and discarding or modifying things that do not seem to be working. This five minute video gives a concise statement of the underlying philosophy and intention.

You may find this video, along with many others, much longer, by Zhang Weiwei, by searching for the title on Youtube.

Thanks to Roxanne Brancker for this one.

What did the Hong Kong protesters expect to achieve?

This American Life, Episode 710: Umbrellas Down

This award-winning American podcast series is the mother of all podcasting, and is still considered the gold standard by many. In Episode 710 the host, Ira Glass, talks to a 22 year old Hong Kong woman who participated in the Umbrella protests, as well as the more recent demonstrations. The podcast gives you a good idea of what the protests were all about. You will be surprised by the naivete of this protester.

You can access the podcast by searching for “This American Life” in your browser.

Finally, this factoid

From Wikipedia. The US has not signed the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea which entered into force in November 1994. The treaty has been signed and ratified by 164 countries. Non-signatories, besides US, are Peru, Venezuela, Turkey, Syria, Uganda, Djibouti and a number of former Soviet republics.