It’s hard to even explain how ridiculous this story is to someone who hasn’t spent hours in China watching Dialogue, perhaps the closest thing to a functional news discussion show the entire country has. It’s in English, which means the government cares less about it, and foreign guests are (relatively) free to challenge the government line on the issues of the day. Yang Rui is the host, a cultured-sounding guy who looks quite reasonable compared to the average CCTV on-air employee. After this rant, however, it’s hard to imagine him getting many self-respecting foreign guests in the future:
The Public Security Bureau wants to clean out the foreign trash: To arrest foreign thugs and protect innocent girls, they need to concentrate on the disaster zones in [student district] Wudaokou and [drinking district] Sanlitun. Cut off the foreign snake heads. People who can’t find jobs in the U.S. and Europe come to China to grab our money, engage in human trafficking and spread deceitful lies to encourage emigration. Foreign spies seek out Chinese girls to mask their espionage and pretend to be tourists while compiling maps and GPS data for Japan, Korea and the West. We kicked out that foreign bitch and closed Al-Jazeera’s Beijing bureau. We should shut up those who demonize China and send them packing.
The ‘foreign bitch’ in this case is Melissa Chan, whose expulsion from China is one of the saddest stories for Chinese journalism in recent memory. Maybe Yang is just mad that a foreigner of Chinese ancestry and appearance has contributed far more to Chinese journalism than he ever will? James Fallows on the incident:
Many foreigners who have been on the show know the experience I had during my few appearances, early in my time in China. When you’re on the set before the show begins, there is a lot of light and non-dogmatic chat with the hosts and the other guest(s). But once the show begins, the tone often shifts, with an opening question from the host on the lines of: “To our guest James Fallows, I must ask: do you not agree that the United States is being unfair and unreasonable in the demands it is making of the Chinese government? Especially considering its many failures at home and its relative decline in standing in the world?” Then once the show is over, it’s light, easy, non-agitprop chat again.
The first time this happened to me, I was startled. But as soon as I thought about it I realized: this is the tightrope you walk inside a state-controlled news network. To the show’s credit, it allows the foreigners to reply in kind and and to challenge the terms of the question. And often it broadcasts the show live, with limited real-time control on what a guest might say. (On the other hand, since it’s in English, the audience inside China is limited.) I was on the show three or four times, usually during US-China meetings or controversies. I found the whole experience educational, as part of my ongoing “this is China” immersion, but eventually I decided this was not a sensible venue for me. I know that many foreigners in China have considered doing anthropological studies, or satiric novels, about the kind of “foreign experts” that CCTV is most comfortable having as frequent return visitors on the show.
On his Sina Weibo account, Dialogue host Yang Rui let loose with an anti-foreigner rant so extreme that on first reading I was sure it had to be a parody. Only it wasn’t. It’s as if you heard a Stephen Colbert “in character” riff on his show — and then suddenly realized he wasn’t kidding. To put it further in context, it’s as if a well-known figure whose trademark was urbane earnestness — again let’s say Ted Koppel, or Charlie Rose — let rip with a David Duke-style diatribe and evidently meant it.
Again, I thought at first this was an urbane Chinese cosmopolite, mocking nativist Chinese attitudes, Colbert-style. That it was serious is … worth reflection.
This is the man whose face China is using to present itself to the world… a virulent anti-foreigner racist? Cool! This whole thing is a soft-power train wreck.