The speed of China’s rise to global prominence is unprecedented. Perhaps inevitably, it has not been matched with a comparable improvement in popular discourses or media coverage about China. The Standing Committee started this blog, therefore, to provide scholarly perspectives on contemporary China that are entertaining and informative, but also unorthodox and thought provoking.
The Standing Committee seeks to move past dominant narratives in the vein of: “China is a threat; China is falling apart; China needs democracy; China is polluted; China is corrupt; China is enamored with luxury brands; etc.” The People’s Republic is undoubtedly all of these things and much more. Even the hackiest hack rarely apply such broad strokes in an analysis of the US, yet China is over four times as populous and every bit as complex.
Not only do these types of stories oversimplify, they tend to gloss over facts in order to fit neatly into pre-existing discourses about China. A few years ago, for example, an article was published claiming that Chinese authorities banned Bob Dylan from performing in China. The story fit so well with narratives like “Bjork Provokes Chinese Censors” and “China bans Oasis” that the claim was frequently repeated despite being based more on innuendo than fact.
Bob Dylan plays China after all (Photo: TONY GOES)
This blog is unabashedly academic. China is a large country with a long history and Chinese is an extremely difficult language. Whereas many journalists are transferred to China for just a few years, China scholars are often fortunate enough to spend the better part of our lives studying China. Additionally, journalists face serious restrictions and harassment at the hands of the Chinese state. By contrast, academics are far more free in terms of where they travel, whom they speak with and on what subjects. Indeed, on more than one occasion this blogger was told by an interviewee that they would speak to him, but not to reporters. Nor are we subject to the same political pressures as business people, government officials, and sometimes-even NGO workers. Despite possible penchants for sophistry, China scholars tend to find themselves surprisingly well equipped to explain current events in the People’s Republic.
This Committee member is as guilty as most scholars of becoming deeply involved in the academic minutiae and complaining about popular discourses rather than trying to fix them. In this blog, therefore, we will endeavor to share our expertise in ways that are accessible, possibly irreverent, and entertaining. We blog in service of the people!