China Japan News

James Fallows on China vs. Japan

James Fallows, one of my favorite journalists, who is currently at The Atlantic, was interviewed on Bob Edwards’ radio show. Fallows’ opinions and insights are really valuable to me because he lived in Japan in the 1980s for a number of years, and recently moved back from China where he had been for a number of years in this decade. So he’s had significant personal experience living in both Japan and China- something which most pundits or journalists don’t have.

You can download the audio here:

The Japan vs. China portion starts at 11:30 on the podcast.

Bob Edwards: So what about this rivalry between Japan and China?

James Fallows: The… you and I have over the years discussed Japan and China from time to time. Probably the two most different seeming places I have ever lived have been Japan and China in the sense that, yes they have a similar-based diets, similar belief systems, similar writing systems- all the rest. But Japan has been a rich country now for a century and a half and prides itself on order, discipline, precision. China is still on average a very poor country, and it’s the most disorderly place you’re ever going to see. In Japan people stop at the stoplights even at 2 AM and there is no body else there. In China, they don’t stop [at the stoplights] even if it’s 3 PM and there’s a million people running them down. And so there is an interesting rivalry in that as a sign of how much richer Japan is, China only this year is passing Japan as an economy, even though China has ten times as many people. So Japan is ten times richer per person. But there is no love lost between them at all. On Chinese public TV almost every night you see a documentary about the rape of Nanking, or the Japanese occupation. This is hammered home non-stop – the Japanese offenses. The Japanese are not as sensitive to this as they might be and their politicians have kept going to the war shrines which really infuriates the Chinese. And so I think it is a source of instability in that part of the world and it may be a reason that Japan stays allied with the US longer than they might otherwise just because their [Japan’s] relationship with the US, while complex, is more friendly than their relationship with China overall- despite the cultural connections.

Bob Edwards: Does that mean China is more open to innovation?

James Fallows: Yes, in this sense. I think that it [China] is certainly more open to foreigners and foreignness in every way and I’d explain it like this way: it’s kind of a cliche but true nonetheless that China is sort of like the US culturally. They [China and the US] are both big continental nations with different ethnic groups. The Chinese officially have fifty-six ethnic minorities, or fifty-five after their main ethnic group. And with the idea that there are a lot of people glued together by a common government, a common language, etc. Whereas Japan it’s homogeneity, it’s tightness, it’s closed-ness. And this has made China, over the years, more open to foreign scholars, foreign marriages, foreign companies. China has been wide open to foreign investment over the last 30 years which Japan has been more of a fraught place. So China is very, very open to innovation on the personal, ad-hoc scale. Japan has been much more successful as a source of high-end invention and advancements because their universities are basically good and China’s [universities] are basically terrible. But as an ‘open’ place, Americans find China more open, despite it’s Communist government, and Japan much more tight and hard to penetrate.

Bob Edwards: Even though it’s a democracy.

James Fallows: Even though it’s a democracy, and one of the few democracies that makes us [Americans] feel better about our own.

Bob Edwards: *laughing*

James Fallows: They [Japan] have had a sequence of failed prime ministerships and one party in power for most of the post-war period until now.

Blogs China News

Evan Osnos – Letter from China

If you’re not reading Evan Osnos’ “Letter from China” blog in the New Yorker, you should be.

For much of the past two decades, the obstacles facing foreign entrepreneurs have been structural: bureaucratic delays, restrictions on moving foreign currency, and so on. But in my conversations with foreign business people these days, the current malaise centers on a less concrete–and, thus, fixable–sense of obstruction. The concern these days is not about the vagaries of what was once called the Iron Rooster, but about the reality of a canny, powerful, well-equipped, urbane counterpart in the global economy, which is beginning to express its own beliefs about fair trade and free flow of information. That, I’m afraid, is a far more difficult gap to bridge.

Winter of Discontent in Beijing: Letter from China : The New Yorker

And the Time piece that is improperly linked to from Evan’s blog post is this one (also worth reading):

In my more than two decades in China, I have seldom seen the foreign business community more angry and disillusioned than it is today. Such sentiment goes beyond the Internet censorship and cyberspying that led to Google’s Jan. 12 threat to bail out of China, or the clash of values (freedom vs. control) implied by the Google case. It is about the perception that antiforeign attitudes and policies in China have been growing and hardening since the global economic crisis pushed the U.S. and Europe into a tailspin and launched China to its very uncomfortable stardom on the world stage.

The China Fix – TIME “The China Fix”

China Internet News

Will China’s Great Firewall Hold?

One day before US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton’s speech on Internet freedom, the New America Foundation has hosted a panel discussion on Chinese censorship of the Internet with Alex Ross of the State Department, Rebecca MacKinnon of the Open Society Institute, Tim Wu of Columbia University, and Evgeny Morozov of Georgetown University. The discussion was moderated by James Fallows of The Atlantic Monthly.

Authority, Meet Technology: Will China’s Great Firewall Hold?

For those who prefer the audio, you can download the MP3 Recording of This Event.

China Internet

$150 Mil. USD fund for free software in China

Tangos Chan over at China Web 2.0 Review is reporting on a new 1 Billion RMB or $150 Mil. USD fund to invest in free software run by Sequoia China, Highland Capital and Qihoo 360. Note that this is ‘free as in beer’ free software, not ‘free and open source software’ such as Linux or Apache or Mozilla. It’s interesting to see these 3 particular entities working together on such a large fund for “free software.” It seems to imply that the “free software” market in China is at least significantly larger than that fund, and if there is a fund that large for free software, anyone in China hoping to make money on non-free software has to fight all of the current challenges as well as this new 1 billion RMB fund.

China Internet

A Chinese comic on Internet censorship

xdanger has a funny and poignant comic on Flickr showing how hard it is for Mainland Chinese Internet users to get unfiltered information on the Internet.