Monday, November 23, 1998

My Childhood in China

Had it not been for the military adventurism of the Japanese government in the 1930's, I would have never heard of Changting(长丁). As it was, Changting, a small hamlet in the interior of Fujian province became the temporary home of the University of Amoy, and I was born there on June 4, 1938, in the year of the tiger. My parents, both graduates of the university majoring in marine biology, were on the faculty. The leadership of the university had anticipated that the port of Amoy (now called Xiamen, which means gate to summer) was of too much strategic importance to be overlooked by the encroaching Japanese military and wisely relocated the campus to the rural, mountainous region of no military importance. (Changting, by the way, is close to Jingangshan, where Mao and his fellow Communists held out some ten years earlier.)

Even though the United States will not have officially declared war with Japan until December 1941, China was very much at war with Japan by the time of my birth. (Chinese generally consider the provocation at Marco Polo Bridge outside Peking, now Beijing, on July 7, 1937 as the "official" beginning of the conflict with Japan. Some consider Japan's 1931 invasion of Manchuria to be the beginning.) Life in China under war conditions was hard. Even so, though I have no real recollection of my infancy, my mother's collection of photographs would indicate that I was the center of attention and suffered no obvious deprivation. While bald babies generally attracted less attention, I had the advantage of being the first born and being a professor's baby, I bathed in the attention of his students as well that of my parents. At that time in China, students spent a lot of their time at the homes of their teachers.

My earliest recollection of my childhood was the night my sister, Helen, was born almost 3.5 years later. Suddenly, there was great activity around the house, and seemingly for the first time, no one was paying any attention to me. I remember gorging on the table of goodies prepared for well wishers and volunteer helpers, and ended crying up a storm because of an excruciating stomach ache. As for my other sisters, Nancy was born after the War was over and Linda was born after we had arrived in the U.S.

We were fortunate to be born with both parents being university graduates, an extraordinarily rare occurrence in China those days. Because of this and because of their parental love and care, we received the best nutrition that could be obtained under the circumstances. I remember as a child having to take cod liver oil regularly, at least while the supply lasted. Later on, probably after the war was over, I remember drinking milk made from canned concentrate and drinking and liking "Ovaltine." The first time I drank milk reconstituted from powder, I thought it was much better than the canned stuff.

My parents went to great length in search of the balanced diet. Vividly etched in my mind were the occasions my father and his students armed with clubs would fan through neighborhoods stalking stray dogs. Once caught, the dogs would be used in laboratory experiments and then served on the family dinner table. My sister and I had no qualms eating dog meat. Meat was meat. My mother did a masterful job of preparing the dishes but she always felt bad over having to serve dog meat to her children.

Probably because Changting had no strategic value, we never faced actual Japanese soldiers. We didn't see any Chinese soldiers either. Changting was simply not worth fighting over. Japanese military forces were spreading pretty thin by the time they reached southern China and taking Changting would have worsened their plight.

We did go on the run a few times heading toward even more remote areas whenever rumors of imminent invasion became too loud to ignore. I remember riding sedan chairs carried by coolies, invariably throwing up in fume filled, antiquated buses, and even once falling out of a sampan into the shallow part of the river. Probably the most traumatic experience while "on the run," at least for my mother, was when I was almost electrocuted. As my mother likes to relate the story, one time we stopped at my parents' friend's residence that had electricity. That was a first for me. Being curious, I climbed on a stool to poke into an open socket. The electricity surged through my hands and I could not let go. In the panic and struggle, I kicked off the stool and my weight was more than the cord dangling from the ceiling could support and promptly snapped, thereby breaking the circuit and thus avoided a real tragedy.

Otherwise, my experience of the war consisted of frequent trips to the air raid shelter. The bloodiest encounter with the War that I can remember was, upon emerging from the air raid shelter, seeing a young man who’s top of the shoulder, shirt and all, was sliced away by bomb shrapnel leaving a flat and round red spot, about the size of a silver dollar.

Perhaps I was too young to know any better and was carefully sheltered from the grimmer aspects of living under siege, but I grew up during the war years happy and content. To play with, I had a tennis ball which, by the time I got it, was worn to the point of being a shiny black ball without any trace of the original felt cover. As the professor's son, I had access to the salamanders kept at the zoology department and used to take them for walks. (I don't recollect eating them, though to this day, salamanders are considered prized delicacies in China.) All in all, compared to most of the Chinese population at that time, my sister and I were very lucky. We didn't have to eat tree bark and I don't remember going really hungry. In short, we were not part of the hungry millions that parents (including mine later on) in the U.S. used to allude to when they are exhorting their children to finish eating the last bit of vegetables from their plates.

After Hiroshima and the Japanese surrender, we moved back to Amoy and life became quite different and traumatic for me. I was between 7 and 8 at the time. My father was one of the fortunate few selected to go the U.S. for further graduate studies, his expenses being paid out of the indemnity funds from Japan. After a false start leading to a nervous breakdown, his paper work eventually cleared and he left for University of Washington in Seattle and I was not to see him for almost four years. During this period, I had the misfortune of being branded a "han jian," a traitor to the ethnic Hans, the dominant ethnic group that make up the Chinese race. Even for an 8 year old, this was a serious charge and I became an outcast in school until my mother came to my rescue.

It came about in this way. After the War, a top national priority was to resume schooling for all the children as soon as possible. Most of the children in occupied China went without schooling during the war years. Consequently, when school began again, the classes contained children with a range of ages. Since I was ahead by two grades for my age, I was among the youngest in the class. Some of my classmates were as much as 5 to 7 years older than I was.

As one can imaging right after the turmoil of war, the availability of qualified teachers was limited. I had the misfortune of getting one of the marginally qualified teachers. In class he frequently resorted to teaching via sloganeering. That is, he would shout out a slogan and we would dutifully holler out the appropriate response. One time when he shouted, "Is Jiang Jie She (Chiang Kai Shek) the greatest leader?" Everyone duly responded with "yes," which of course was the expected answer. Alas, I wasn't paying attention and said "no!" It was strictly unintentional; I could not know enough to intend otherwise.

"Who said that," the teacher asked. "Gu Ping Shan, (my Chinese name) you are a han jian!" "Han jian, han jian," my classmates immediately chanted in unison. That unfortunate "nick name" stuck. I was relentlessly teased by my fellow students, whenever they saw me, or so it seemed at the time. I lost interest in going to school and my report card reflected this change.

When my mother found out about it, she was quite upset that a teacher could be so irresponsible and cruel. She arranged for me to transfer to another school, and I stayed behind to repeat fifth grade again. School was enjoyable once more and I completed the rest of my elementary school education without further incident. The biggest disappointment of my life up to leaving China was when a mistake was made in my name appearing in my grade school diploma. The diploma had to be sent back to the Education Ministry in Nanking for correction. That was June, 1949. The Nationalist government was on the verge of collapse and my family and I were about to leave China to rejoin my father in Seattle. Though I was to earn a number of diplomas later in life, I never have forgotten the disappointment of not getting this colorful and very official looking document that would have been my first.

When my father was selected to go abroad for further education after World War II, he was among a select and fortunate group. It was the dream of virtually every Chinese university graduate to go to the West, especially the U.S., for additional academic training. His dream delayed by the War was about to be realized. Although this meant being separated from his family for an extended period of time, it was a price he and others like him paid without hesitation. In China, this attitude still prevails today.

It took my father two tries to leave China. The first time he reached Shanghai, the port of embarkation, he couldn't pass the physical required to obtain the U.S. visa for some rather arbitrary reasons. His disappointment coupled with the helpless feeling of not being in control of one's life led to a nervous breakdown and severe illness. He ended up convalescing at the home of his younger brother and wife in Shanghai for sometime. When he recovered enough to return to Amoy, he was subdued and quiet. I remember that he brought back the biggest white rubber ball that I had ever seen up to then. He also brought me translations of Kipling's "Jungle Book" and "Emil and the Detective." The books he told me were gifts from my uncle in Shanghai, a modern metropolis where it was possible to get such balls and fascinating books.

After my father got to Seattle, he would include money in the letters he wrote to my mother. The U.S. currency kept us alive during a period of increasing instability. Thanks to runaway inflation, the Chinese currency had no value. The government kept adding zeros to the bills and then changing the standard from silver to gold to no avail. The people had lost complete confidence. My mother would change enough U.S. dollars for us to get by. We could even afford to go to movies and my first introduction to things American was C ration chocolates and Tarzan movies.

I cannot explain why certain childhood memories stay with us all our lives while others are forgotten. The above are some of the "highlights" that I can recall of my childhood in China.

Thursday, November 12, 1998

Bill Clinton, Pat Robertson and Fan Shidong: Their Impact on U.S.-China Relations

Based on a presentation given before the Commonwealth Club, San Francisco, November 9, 1998

I was first invited to speak at the Commonwealth Club over two years ago. The invitation came from Dr. Gloria Duffy, Chief Executive Officer of this organization, and it was to engage in a debate with Harry Wu about human rights conditions in China. Mr. Wu's response was that he would gladly speak about the subject but would not participate in any debate. Thus, that invitation came to naught.

Naturally I was disappointed, because this country has had a terribly distorted view of China causing a severe case of jaundice on the entire bilateral relationship. In my view, Mr. Wu along with certain members of Congress and the mainstream media have created an image of China that is coming straight from the funhouse mirror.

Henry Rowen, a former senior official in the Bush adminstration and now a senior fellow at Hoover Institution found that in the first half of the '90s, the mainstream media ran articles on China with a ratio of 12:1 on the negative side. In other words, for every positive or objective article on China, there were 12 criticizing and/or castigating China. Prof Rowen defined mainstream media as consisting of New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, Time and Newsweek.

With that kind of tilt in the press, it is almost impossible for the American public to develop a balanced view of China. Yet it is in our interest, as well in the interest of the entire world, that the U.S. and China remain engaged in a positive and rational manner. Thus, for the sake of my children and grandchildren, I was then and I am eager now to participate in forums where I have an opportunity to help clarify some issues. Just so there is absolutely no confusion, I want to say at the outset that I am an American, my children are Americans and my grandchildren are Americans. I am speaking from an American's perspective in the interest of all Americans.

Thanks to President Clinton's trip to China with the massive media in tow, to the sobering after effects of the Asian financial crisis, to the bankruptcy of the Russian economy, to Bosnia, Kosovo and most recently to the Israeli-Palestinian accord, bashing China is for now not a favorite pastime. I welcome this opportunity to talk about China during the interval of calm before the next storm. The seismic changes taking place in Washington stemming from the recent election may keep the storm clouds from gathering on China for a while, but I would hardly think that the bilateral relationship will always be sunny from here on.

Some of you may have noticed that the title of my talk emcompasses a curious collection of names from President Bill Clinton to Pat Robertson to Fan Shidong. No doubt, many of you are assuming that I selected this title to be titillating. Maybe so, but it is no more scandalous than to see Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi in the same political bed with Senator Jesse Helms lashing out at the Beijing regime for real or imagined offenses.

Aside from drawing up a title to attract an audience, the three gentlemen do have something in common. They have all made a historic trip across the Pacific, and have in my view some important things to say to China or about China, and if we listen--more importantly, if Congress will listen-- they will help put the bilateral relationship on a new track. Let me explain by first reviewing each person's trip, then I will attempt to pull it all together.

President Clinton's Historic Visit to China

First the easy one. When Bill Clinton decided to move his trip to China up to late June, he had to withstand a firestorm of criticisms ranging from his attempting to duck the Monica scandal--which if that was his intention, he didn't succeed-- to coddling with dictators. He also got unsolicited and malicious advice.

He was advised not to go near Tiananmen Square. Can you imagine the President on arrival in Beijing saying "Excuse me, I know that the Great Hall of the People is where you receive heads of state, but in my case please go ahead with the 21 gun salute without me?"

It was also suggested that Hillary Clinton wear white as a sign of mourning in memory of the students that died in June of 1989. If you remember the pomp and ceremony as the Clintons entered the Hall, you would realize her wearing white would've been unnoticed or if noticed, would have made her look mighty silly.

Instead, President Clinton became the first foreign head of state to address the Chinese people live, not once or twice but three times. First time at the Great Hall alongside President Jiang, second time at Beijing University in front of an audience of mainly students, both of these were televised to national audience, and third time on a radio talk show in Shanghai.

I believe as a result of this trip, Jiang and Clinton finally developed the rapport and mutual respect needed to maintain a dialog between two major heads of state. The Chinese people got a sense of the Western concept of democracy. Just as important, if not more so, President Clinton and his entourage including the media, may finally begin to realize that democracy, Western style, isn't the red hot issue among the younger generation in China that they may have presupposed.

Instead of fomenting dissent and espousing democracy, expected from the cradle of agitation that led to the 1989 Tiananmen protest, the student questioners at Beijing University addressing the President were pointedly more interested in knowing about U.S. attitudes and plans for the bilateral relationship. One student asked if U.S. has any human rights problems and what has been done about them. None showed any inclination to take up the U.S. point of view in the friendly debate about human rights and personal freedom.

What the students at Beijing University and later the people of Shanghai that participated in the radio talk demonstrated is that the people of China know a lot more about America than Americans know about China. This should be a strange conclusion considering that they are supposed to live in a closed society and we in an open society. Probably says something about the way our media covers China and about our interest in international relations (vs. domestic relations).

The Chinese respondents also showed that their concern about the future of China is just not the same as America's concern. President Clinton stressed the importance of individual freedom to the future of China and argued that China's long term stability will depend on the granting of personal freedom. The Chinese people politely disagreed. One of the students said, "I don't think the individual freedom and the collective freedom will contradict each other. For instance, in China, the prosperous development of the nation is actually the free choice of our people.... And I also think that only those who can really respect the freedom of others, they can really say that they understand what freedom means."

The last sentence is a pointed reminder to the President and the people of the U.S. that we Americans do not own the definition of freedom.

Of course it's hard for me to say whether the media have really learned anything from this trip and recognize that tremendous changes are taking place in China and whether they have yet to take off the blinders of pre-conceived notions and truly see what's going on.

For example, as a background piece, Dan Rather of CBS interviewed a former activist on Tiananmen who landed in prison for two years for his role. He is now a successful entrepreneur operating a number of book stores in Beijing. When asked about his thoughts on Tiananmen, he said that was the past, he would rather look forward to making a good life for himself and his live-in fiancee, also a Tiananman participant.

This probably was not the response Dan Rather had in mind. But it didn't keep him from this straight into the camera conclusion: "Isn't it terrible that China is suffering from lack of democracy." Rather is not the exception. Sam Donaldson strayed the farthest by reprising an exposé on organ sales that was shown on Primetime Live about 8 months earlier. In that program, Harry Wu help snare a young couple caught on TV for taking downpayments for kidney transplants.

Other than having the Shanghai Bund as the background, there was no new information given when Donaldson re-ran the Primetime piece. Questions raised after the first airing of the program included: What happened to the young Chinese couple, the Dai's, caught on video taking the advance deposit money for transplant reservation? Why weren't they arrested and prosecuted? Where did they go? According an article Harry Wu wrote for World Journal of ethnic Chinese press, he secretly let them go. Could that be true? Where did he get authority to take law into his hands? None were answered this time around.

Pat Robertson Meets Zhu Rongji

Pat Robertson went to China and met with Zhu Rongji almost exactly two months after Clinton's summit. Dr. Robertson is the Chairman of the Christian Broadcast Network (CBN) and a founder of the Christian Coalition. He was invited to China to see for himself the practice of religion in China. This summit was initiated and arranged by the Committee of 100.

The Committee of 100 is an organization of Chinese Americans. The mission of the organization is to speak up on Chinese American issues in America and to promote an U.S.-China relationship based on the principle of "seeking common grounds while respecting differences." Some of the more prominent members include Architect I.M. Pei, Cellist Yo-Yo Ma, Chancellor Chang-Lin Tien, and Governor Gary Locke.

In 1997, the Committee organized a group to Asia to meet with government leaders in Taipei, Hong Kong and Beijing. The purpose of the trip was to observe the return of Hong Kong to China and to discuss their concerns over the then existing tensions between the U.S. and China and between Taiwan and the mainland.

Just before this group arrived in Beijing in July 1997, Time magazine had reported on the vitriolic bashing of China from the religious right in the U.S. Sensitive to the power of the religious right in American politics, Liu Huaqiu, head of Foreign Affairs of the State Council, asked the visiting group for advice on how to best respond to the bitter attacks.

One member of the group, Dr. Richard Cheng, Chairman and C.E.O. of ECI Systems Engineering in Virginia Beach, who knows Pat Robertson personally, suggested that he could approach Robertson about a possible visit to China. This was warmly endorsed by others in the group. Thus, Cheng with the support of the Committee became the intermediary between Robertson's organization and the leaders in Beijing.

When he came back from China, Robertson said, "China's society has already made tremendous strides. The people have taken a great step towards freedom. China is in midst of building an economic miracle. Furthermore, the people of China are enjoying religious freedom to a degree far greater than has been described by the American media." Imagine that!

Robertson's remarks about China clearly put him on a collision course with many members of the religious right. When asked, he said people like Gary Bauer, head of the Family Research Council is hard to influence. "He does what he likes, but he does not speak for conservative Christians. I do," he said. "I don't believe he has ever been to China."

Robertson first went to China in 1979. Walking around Beijing's Summer Palace on this trip, he saw throngs of people relaxed and at play. He observed that there was no way that this could happen in a police state. "The change in China over the last 20 years is just breathtaking," he added.

Zhu told Robertson that according to official statistics, there are about 10 million Christians in China out of about 100 million that are registered with a religious affiliation. Buddhism was introduced into China nearly 2000 years ago. The Jesuit priest Matteo Ricci brought Catholicism with him in 1602 while the Protestant faith was not introduced until 1807. The relatively short history of Christianity in China is Zhu's explanation for the relatively smaller following.

Robertson congratulated Zhu on China's economic achievements. He also pointed out that China will need more than ever the moral and spiritual values from religion as the standard of living increases. "Religion such as Christianity is not a threat to your government," Robertson went on to tell Zhu. "Religion was not a threat to the former Soviet Union. Their problem was not having a visionary leader like Deng Xiaoping."

The meeting lasted 75 minutes, well beyond the allotted time and kept Zhu's next batch of visitors waiting.

Robertson's entourage had made a number of requests upon their arrival in Beijing. After the meeting with Zhu, doors opened. Robertson and his delegation visited churches and talked to scholars and religious leaders of all the major faiths.

Dr. Robertson and his TV crew even got to interview Alan Yuan, an 84 year old pastor who spent 22 years in Chinese prisons. He simply walked into the hotel where they were staying. This interview was later broadcast on Christian Broadcast Network. Yuan was originally sentenced to life imprisonment for preaching and running a home church without registering with the government.

According to Robertson, people like Pastor Yuan from China's underground churches do not trust the government offices in control of religion because they are all communists. However, in his official meetings and conversations, he met many "fine religious leaders." "The line is beginning to blur and underground churches are beginning to register with the government," he said.

On the eve of his departure from Beijing, Robertson hosted a press conference. He said, "China compared to before is wide open. The live telecast of the exchanges between Jiang Zemin and President Clinton is a historic milestone. I am delighted to see a new era of warmth and cooperation in relations between the United States and China."

Robertson's parting observation was that while some members of Congress are sincere about their concerns on human rights, they have not been to China to see the progress there. Others, unfortunately, have turned China and U.S.-China relationship into hostages of domestic politics.

The successful outcome of this visit is, in no small part, due to Robertson's understanding of Chinese history and culture. Throughout his meeting with Zhu, he liberally sprinkled his conversation with references not only to Deng Xiaoping but Confucianism and even Sun Zi's "Art of War."

I wrote a commentary about Robertson's trip to China and drew an analogy with Matteo Ricci. The Jesuit priest and a Vatican emissary entered China toward the waning years of the Ming Dynasty. He studied Chinese classics, spoke fluent Chinese, taught the sons of influential families and incorporated Western knowledge into his lessons.

Ricci represented himself as a scholar rather than as a priest. He adapted Catholic rites so that they were easier to understand by the Chinese. He did not ask converts to renounce ancestor worship and he acknowledged the influence of Confucius. He successfully weathered the transition in rulers and served as a respected advisor to Kangxi, the first Qing emperor, in a capacity similar to his role at the preceding Ming court.

The decline of the influence of Catholicism in China began when the Pope disagreed with Ricci's approach. He specifically prohibited missionaries that followed Ricci from allowing converts to retain traditional Chinese practices. Completely turned off by this show of intolerance, the emperor then expelled the priests from China.

A Dissident Refutes Harry Wu

Now let me tell you about Fan Shidong, someone most of you have not heard of. Fan is a dissident who was arrrested in 1983 and spent the next 11 years in Chinese prisons. He was seen in frequent company of an American official from their Consulate in Shanghai and he was accused of selling secrets to the U.S.

He spent the last 8.5 years in a Xinjiang labor camp before he was released in 1994 and slipped into Hong Kong in 1995. Harry Wu heard of him and contacted him. Wu offered Fan money in exchange for his testimony before U.S. Congress. At the time--early in 1996, Wu was on a campaign to stop World Bank financing in Xinjiang

Wanting to build a case to halt World Bank investments in Xinjiang, China's eastern most autonomous region, Wu tracked down Fan and flew to Hong Kong to meet him. Wu needed someone like Fan, more recently released from a Xinjiang prison camp than himself, to authenticate his case before Congress. Fan turn him down even though he had shown up in Hong Kong penniless and certainly could have used the money.

Fan's principle was stronger than his financial need and he refused because he felt that World Bank financing of irrigation projects in Xinjiang could only ameliorate the harsh conditions of that region. It would be good for the civilians and good for prisoners also as it would facilitate their growing their own food to supplement the meager budget allocated by the government and not pocketed by corrupt officials.

Wu told him that World Bank's charter does not permit financing projects related to the prison camps and to the military. Since there were prison camps in Xinjiang and the camps were under the military's management, that should be sufficient grounds to bar the investments, Wu explained to Fan. Fan did not agree with this loose interpretation of the World Bank mandate.

Xinjiang laogai prisoners not having enough to eat and suffering from beatings were not noteworthy, because Americans don't want to hear about that, Wu told Fan. Laogai is an abbreviation for the part of China's prison system that stands for reform through labor. "No one can call himself a human rights activist, if he actually doesn't care a hoot about the lives of prisoners and their living conditions," Fan declares to his audience on his first visit to the Bay Area.

Fan's view is that even though prison conditions in today's China have improved compared to the 1980's, violation of the prisoners' human rights remains a problem. Wu has succeeded in diverting the world's attention to such issues as prison made goods, organ sales, World Bank financing, and planned parenthood and thus taken the pressure off the Chinese government to improve the treatment of prisoners.

Fan also found out that Wu is capable of making many doubtful statements. For example, in his Congressional testimony on November 5, 1997, Wu claimed that he was thrown in prison because of his family background with a banker for a father. "Even during Mao's darkest rule, during the cultural revolution, I didn't hear of anyone being sent to prison just for having the wrong family background," Fan says.

By equating China's laogai to the former Soviet's gulag under Stalin, Wu is equating China current regime with Stalin's reign of terror, Fan points out. When Harry Wu was in prison in the 1960's, approximately 10% of the laogai inmates were political prisoners. By the time, Fan was arrested, political prisoners make up only 1% of the prison population and today, Fan believes, political prisoners comprised of only about 0.1% of the inmates in China. No where, he feels, are there any indications of China's prison system being comparable to Stalinist days in Soviet Union.

In presenting his disagreements with Wu, Fan cites liberally from "New Ghosts, Old Ghosts," a recently released definitive study of China's prison system by James Seymour with co-author Richard Anderson. Fan wrote the forward to this book and gave Seymour his collection of data and materials on China's laogai. Wu had sought to buy the same collection from Fan during that four-hour long meeting in Hong Kong.

For example, Wu makes a big deal about prison made goods from China flooding the U.S. market. Last Christmas, he even paraded in front of K-Mart to exhort shoppers from buying imported goods from China. Seymour's analysis showed that even during the years when prison made goods had the biggest impact, it could account for no more than 0.2% of China's GDP. With the economic boom that has been taking place, prison made goods account for even less and in most cases just goes to supplement the underfed prisoners.

Dr. Seymour is a professor at Columbia and a well known human rights activist including being a member of the board of the New York based Human Rights in China. His reason for writing this book is his belief that criticism on China, in order to be effective, must come from higher moral grounds with a ring of validity derived from facts and truths.

"Everything Harry Wu does is aimed towards destroying the U.S. China relationship," Fan says, "And I am in favor of strengthening the U.S. China relationship." Hadn't been for the moderating influence of America, his own conviction as an anti-revolutionary would have meant execution, Fan observes.

Fan and his wife came to the U.S. as UN refugees in 1997 now lives in the Seattle area. He works in a grocery store and spends his spare time studying and writing about China's prison system. Fan says that he feels he has an obligation to help improve the prison conditions by persuading the Chinese government to take necessary rectification steps. The government bears responsibility for the dismal conditions, but they are also the body most able to correct the problems, he concludes.

In late June this year, Fan wrote an extensive piece entitled, "Shattering Harry Wu's Western Funhouse Mirror," which appeared in Sing Tao Daily. A translated version of this article is posted on the web page,

Seeing China Clearly

So what can we conclude from these three disparate transpacific sojourns? First of all, I need to assume that you are interested in a sound bilateral relations between the U.S. and China; in constructive engagement where differences can be aired objectively; in supporting criticisms but not demonizing China for the sake of domestic politics; and lastly but not least, you recognize that there is no profit in making China an enemy of the United States.

I believe the three gentlemen have revealed a China far different from how it has been portrayed by the mainstream media, and different from the perception of the general public in America. The next time you read about China from the media, be sure to distinguish between a pundit and a journalist. A pundit opines, he/she doesn't have to deal with facts. A journalist, at least, has to try to be objective, fair and provide balance. The New York Times is a prime example. Reading their editorials on China, one would have to conclude that those columnists are oblivious to the despatches from even their own reporters based in China.

The next time the US-China relationship comes under Washington scrutiny and Congressional debate, I urge you, the American public to listen carefully and ask them some questions. To start with: Have the critics been to China? What axes are they grinding if any? Hopefully with increasing exposure of people of integrity that can bear reliable witness to the real situation in China, we will see a decrease in people of questionable conduct, ethics and veracity appearing as the only witnesses before Congress.
1 Henry Rowen, "The Short March, China's Road to Democracy," The National Interest, Fall, 1996, p67
2 See for example a discussion in "U.S. Media Coverage of China," National Committee on U.S.-China Relations, Inc., Policy Series Report No. 14, June 1998
3 Originally aired on October 15, 1997 by ABC.
4 Wu's article appeared in the Sunday magazine section of World Journal entitled "Xuexing Shiye" (Bloody Enterprise), early 1998
5 For more information on this organization, visit their website at
6 "Pat Robertson -- A Modern Day 'Matteo Ricci' Fosters Ties Between Religious Right and China," Pacific News Service commentary, October 12, 1998
7 See for example, A. A. Quong, "A Quiet Dissident from China Sees Hope for Reform in Prison Labor Camps," Pacific News Service commentary, October 8, 1998. Other description of Fan's visit to Stanford and U.C. Berkeley appeared in October 18, 1998 issue of San Francisco Examiner and November 12, 1998 issue of Far Eastern Economic Review.
8 "New Ghosts, Old Ghosts," M.E. Sharpe, $39.95, was published early in 1998 and most recently reviewed in November 9, 1998 issue of Wall Street Journal. Earlier reviews of this book had appeared in South China Morning Post and Far Eastern Economic Review. All the reviewers agree that the conclusions of this book "strike at the credibility of Harry Wu."