Joshua Kurlantzick has an article in American Prospect that is both interesting and frustrating. It’s about Cambodia, and the Chinese language press there. Loh Swee Ping is a Malyasian-born Chinese who runs a Chinese paper in Cambodia. (The paper seems to be 柬埔寨星洲日報, although this is never made clear) The journalistic world of Cambodia seems rather free-wheeling, giving considerable scope to people like Loh, who takes journalism seriously, while also being full of all sorts of semi-corrupt types who like good coverage and are willing to get it either through payola or violence.
The hook for the article is that the Chinese government is encouraging the growth of a Sino-sphere, with Chinese language newspapers, schools, and a growing Chinese presense. So far so good, and there is some interesting stuff in here. He ends, however, with a lament on how the Americans are not doing enough to counteract Beijing’s fairly authoritarian advice on how to handle things like the press. While I as an American would also like to see the U.S. government stand up for things like freedom of the press (standing up is free, furcrissakes) I am always a bit amused at articles like Kurlantzick’s, or like this that assume that the Americans, their model, and their actions are what really matter here. I agree that the Americans could matter more, and the -very rapid- decline of American soft power is partly attributable to stupid things we have done of late and could and should stop doing. On the other hand, some decline is probably built in. You don’t need an American-style press to be an economic success, China proves it. If you are the Cambodian government and you are going to look ideologically acceptable by jumping every time someone says frog you are probably better off listening to China anyway. I just don’t think the old Cold War model of understanding Asia as either more or less like the U.S. works at all, and it is a bit frustrating to see a journalist who actually went to Cambodia and found some good stuff shoving things into that pattern.
This certainly seems like a sober critique, although the statement that the Kurlantzick article “assume[s] that the Americans, their model, and their actions are what really matter” vis a vis the Cambodian media might be an overstatement – depending on what ‘really matter’ means – it’s somewhat unclear to me.
It also begs the question: What factors really matter in this case? Assuming you are correct in your assessment that Kurlantzick, Hounshell and others exhibit an overly US-centric bias in their analyses, could you perhaps sketch an outline for an alternative?
I am neither an historian nor well versed in geopolitical issues. The reason I am raising this small challenge is that my first reaction to your article is agreement, and I want to test it.
I suppose what bothers me about both of these are a number of American-centered assumptions built in here.
-That the government of Cambodia or Vietnam would be concerned about what the Americans think, and that if the American government nagged more states would liberalize. This I think is becoming less and less true.
-The implication that democracy, free speech and economic development all go together in some sort of cosmic way and that the only possible way for Asia to develop is to become more like the U.S.
-Kurlantzik says that “Beijing does not have an explicit policy of undermining civil society in countries with which it has relations” as if the only possible model of civil society is the American one. I get the impression that Beijing is starting to promote a coherent vision of what civil society should be, and I would like to know more about it. He actually has some interesting stuff in there.
I should note that I am pretty anti Confucian development myself. I do think the American government should nag other nations about democracy (I’m an American) I don’t agree with the Lee Guanyus and Bo Yibos of the world who see democracy as a luxury or a distraction from the important task of building national power. That said, it annoys me to read journalists who write about Asia but don’t seem to analyze the actual situation regarding the growth of civil society in Asia.
Re: ‘article assume’ vs ‘article assumes’
Du Yisa ‘corrected’ Baumler’s use of ‘this article assume’ to ‘this article assumes’. Du Yusa assumed that Baumler made a grammatical mistake in the use of the English simple present.
Just to let you know both the verb conjugations in ‘this article assume’ and ‘this article assumes’ are correct. However they mean different things, and it would be up to Baumler to let us know whether he really did want the use of ‘assume’ or whether it was a typo error for ‘assumes’.
I have on this site voiced my concerns over the poor translations of original Chinese writings into modern English for detailed analytical and critical studies. These incorrect translations obviously meant the original meanings of the Chinese were mis-conveyed. Then scholars carry out further work based on incorrect translations, which then snowballed into further mistakes. In this case, a Chinese person (or at least I assume a Chinese person Du Yisa) misunderstood the function of the English verb. Translating a Sinitic language into an Indo-European language is not simply a case of matching the corresponding vocabulary of the two language families, the moods and tenses of the verbs have to be worked out.
Please, ladies and gentlemen, if any of you really want to study Chinese history and writings seriously, first get a good grip of English grammar, and preferably the grammar of Indo-European languages in general. In Indo-European languages, the verb is the most important word in the sentence; not so in Chinese, especially written Classical/Old Chinese.
I do of course realise that currently in English speaking countries, English grammar is no longer properly taught in schools, to the extent that even schoolteachers and university teachers have little grasp of English grammar. I have just had to explain to my young son that ‘I am embarrassed’ and ‘I am embarrassing’ have two very different meanings.
I just do not want to see scholars waste time pursuing studies that do not have true foundations, and in of case of the study pursued on this website, false interpretation of history.
Alan Baumler tells us that he is pretty much anti Confucian in development, and that he is an American (thus the belief in democracy).
Being anti Confucian was/is not that uncommon, and indeed there was little support for Confucius in his life time, and numerically I would say there were more Chinese not practising ‘Confucianism’- whatever that may be, than there were Chinese practising Confucianism throughout history. Will Alan Baumler please also tell us whether he is anti Jewish, anti Christian and anti Islam, as well, because Confucianism and the Abrahamic faiths share many beliefs and values. Indeed, the Patriarchs and the likes of the Jewish kings David and Solomon were polygamists, in much the same way the Confucianists were.
Is there a big conflict with being an American and a Confucianist (whatever that may be)? Both believe in obeying the Law. If the Law stated that there be elections, then the Confucianists will have to observe that too.
I think the meaning ‘democracy is a luxury developing countries can’t afford’ can be best illustrated with the costs of a presidential election in the USA. For a developing country these costs could be used to build and run much needed hospitals and schools. If a good and conscientious leader could be found without such expense, it would be fabulous. Unfortunately there are many examples in which undemocratic leaders pocketed these ‘savings’ and much more, for themselves. So perhaps democracy, although expensive, is the required solution. However whether democracy need to follow the US model is another matter.
I did not say that I was “anti Confucian in development” but that I was anti Confucian development, opposed to the entire Lee Guanyu position that things like democracy and a free press are luxuries that culturally Chinese countries don’t need.
Will Alan Baumler please tell us whether apart from anti Confucian development he is also anti Jewish development, anti Christian development and anti Islamic development?
I am not aware of any theories of “Jewish Devlopment” or “Christian Development,” so I have no opinion about them. I also know very little about the theorists of a specifically Islamic path to development. Confucian development, the theory that there is a specifially East Asia form of nation-building and that things like free speech and democracy are luxuries or downright harmful I do not support.
You might try for some of these issues– Zheng Yongnian -Discovering Chinere Nationalism in China
Aren’t you confusing someone’s theory with reality? Ask any ordinary person in East Asia ‘What is ‘Confucianism’?’ or ‘What did Confucius say?’, you are more likely to be greeted with a shrug of the shoulder or ‘He told people to respect their parents.’ Just by looking at the answer, the person could well be a Christian, Jew or Muslim, or as you say a a ‘Confucianist’. They all share a set of common ‘human’ values.
Political leaders always justify their decisions by claiming they made them in accordance with a higher order, be that a Mandate of Heaven as with Chinese emperors, God or the will of the People. Lee Kuan Yu’s theory belongs to Lee Kuan Yu. Had he labelled it as Lee’s Theory, nobody would have taken much notice, but by marketing it as ‘Confucianism’, people sit up and debate the merits of Confucianism. These people know nothing about Confucius, and only know what Lee Kuan Yu said, not what Confucius said. Being anti Confucian development is not that uncommon, afterall, even the Chinese Communists mounted an anti Confucius campaign. This begs the question of whether Alan Baumler actually knows what ‘Confucianism’ is or whether he had fallen into the trap of going by what other people’s propaganda/marketing say ‘Confucianism’ is. One could debate that Confucius was not in favour of democracy, but did Confucius really think that? After all Confucius spoke about the will of the people, and the Emperor was there to take care of the people, otherwise expect an upheaval; was that not a form of democratic thinking comparable to the contemporary Greeks? Is Alan Baumler anti Lee Kuan Yu rather than anti Confucian development (whatever that might be)?
It would be a lot better for academics before they put their thoughts on paper to actually go out and analyse the subjects of their study, instead of simply saying I support this or I am against that based on what other people say. If an advert said this chicken is ‘finger licking good’, it would be rather foolish for anyone to repeat it as though it were true because someone might say ‘Tell me just exactly what’s so finger licking good about it?’; although this would be exactly the purpose of the advertising agency who dreamt up the slogan.
I find it hard to believe Baumler’s claim that he knows little about Christian development, Jewish development and Islamic development; these developments are happening all around us. Take George W Bush and Tony Blair’s actions in Iraq, they justified them on the basis of doing God’s will (that is a Christian God’s will). Shouldn’t someone sitting in a history chair sit up and take note of the living history happening all around us?
J Chan wrote: “Du Yusa [sic] assumed that Baumler made a grammatical mistake in the use of the English simple present.”
I agree that careful reading is important. My name is Du Yisa (杜以撒) and I didn’t.
I merely converted a simple plural into a singular (tense and voice remained the same). There was no correction, as there was no grammatical mistake.
It does seem that Mr Baumler did not sketch an outline of what factors really matter for the development of the Cambodian Chinese-language press, etc. However, I very much appreciate his willingness to look for them, and his expressed dissatisfaction with the assumption that existing models are adequate. To me, this represents a strong foundation for scholarship, whereas the needless belaboring of simple semantic issues does not.
If I consider Zheng Yongnian’s use of the term ‘Confucian development’ inappropriate, or wish to employ the same term without endorsing his ideas, it is a simple matter to say so. If I am somehow uncomfortable with how others use the term, I can ask for clarification. Alternatively, I can pontificate.
Finally, I would like to note that I am personally opposed to further Jewish development, particularly as concerns ‘soft power’. I dread the day that either a knish or blintz invades a dim sum menu, or I see a pretty girl in a qipao tilt her head, frown, put her palms up and shrug.
‘I merely converted a simple plural into a singular (tense and voice remained the same). There was no correction, as there was no grammatical mistake.’
The above explanation is completely wrong. Just because an English verb conjugation did not end with an ‘s’ does not mean that the subject is a plural. It is not for me to give Du Yisa lessons in English grammar, so I’ll leave him to look up English verb conjugations for himself. To give him a clue, it is neither the tense or the voice (as he stated) but the mood.
Syntax and semantics are very important, particularly when translating two languages. In the case of the example here, a simple change in syntax (ie the addition/ deletion of an ‘s’ in the English verb conjugation) changes the semantics completely.
It’s a bit old, but here is something by Amartya Sen on the whole Asian values thing. Mostly Indian examples
I think people have have either misunderstood or twisted the ‘authoritarianism’ outlook of Lee Kuan Yu. There appears to be a sense that Lee’s form of ‘authoritarianism’ is the exact opposite of ‘freedom’ and ‘authoritarianism’ is the opposite of ‘democracy’.
As this is a history website, it is well to understand the history of freedom and democracy.
The democracy proposed by the ancient Greeks was a form of freedom for and limited to about 10% of their population. The Roman Empire, the pinnacle of ancient European civilisation was a free society but only for Roman citizens.
Let’s examine modern Western political freedom: Who paid for this, what made it possible for present day West Europeans and North Americans to enjoy this freedom? I would argue that the fabrics of freedom was bought with slavery, spoils of war and cheap labour from elsewhere. Even today Americans enjoy freedom within their borders because of coolie labour outside and within its border. If these people stopped working, the Americans would make war against their countries.
Lee Kuan Yu’s form of ‘authoritarianism’ is not one of ‘slavery authoritarianism’ but one of ‘lawful or republican authoritarianism’. Lee is a great thinker, he is also a practical person, he is not an academic in the sense that he would not waste his time pursuing subjects of no obvious benefit, and he is a very intelligent man as testified by his Cambridge crudentials. Furthermore he is a lawyer, a British trained lawyer at that, and a Christian. Under English Law, a reasonable (average) person is anyone who is found on the Clapham omnibus (Clapham being a suburb of London). The type of authority Lee was talking about is the authority backed by Law. People of the country make Law through democracy. The Law reflect what people want. Let the Courts interpret the Law and exercise the authority of Law.
Lee is not against the ‘freedom of speech or expression’ or the ‘freedom of the press’ per se. Lee wanted people (the man sitting on the Clapham omnibus) to have a say on where the limits of freedom lie. In the USA, pornography is allowed because it was argued that to ban it was against the freedom of expression or speech. Pornographers are allowed to prosper, so much so that this particular industry is bigger than the main stream Hollywood film industry. No doubt US authorities want to allow the export of American pornography everywhere because it is an easy way of generating export dollars. Lee is saying we don’t want this American rubbish on Asian soil, because in his view the ‘man on the Clapham omnibus’ in Asia will not agree that this is a freedom of expression. Lee’s view reflects not just Asian or Confucian values, but also Christian values. American law may allow it, but the Law of Singapore or of any other country in Asia are made by these countries and not America. Lee does not want to see children harmed by people who do evil in the name of freedom.
As for press freedom, take the recent example of the Danish cartoons making fun of Mohammed. Europe allowed it. Should that happen in Singapore or anywhere else on Asia? I think not, because ‘the man on the Clapham omnibus’ in these countries will think that this is taking press freedom too far. Press freedom had infringed on other people’s freedom too much.
Lee Kuan Yu is also a great believer of the ‘bell curve’, the Normal Distribution. He believes that if there is an increase in the ‘good’ end of the bell curve, there will be an equal increase in the ‘bad’ end of the bell curve. Lee’s desire is to protect people from chalatans, pornographers and evil people who are allowed to exist because of loopholes in the freedom arguments.
If Lee Kuan Yu’s views were so bad, then why has it been possible for Singapore within 2 generations to have a decent healthcare system, educational system, retirement system and so on for its people? Does the US system of ‘freedom’ care as much for its Black citizens living in the ghettoes as Lee Kuan Yu does for the citizens of his country?
Dear J Chan
Regarding the grammar point you have raised, the sentence in question is:
“I am always a bit amused at articles like Kurlantzick’s, or like this that assume that the Americans, their model, and their actions are what really matter here.”
Please note that unless the verb ‘assume’ is plural, then ‘articles like Kurlantzik’s’ have no connection to the assumption in question. The simplest interpretation is that ‘assume’ is third person plural simple present indicative. Please explain why you consider the mood subjunctive, and the author’s intended meaning.
After you have done that, you can apologize.
Kindly note that in the above sentence, the pronoun ‘you’ is singular, and the mood of ‘can apologize’ is indicative.
BTW, my use of the word ‘semantics’ was in reference to your needless hectoring concerning a qualified (and informed) use of the term ‘Confucian development’. You might want to reread all the comments – including this one – since it seems you have a flair for creative misinterpretation.
What are we to do with your tantrums Du Yisa?
I am very glad you have now checked the grammar of English. Had you done that in the first place, you would not have changed what Baumler wrote.
You are the one who changed what Baumler wrote, not me.
Let me quote what you previously wrote: ‘I merely converted a simple plural into a singular (tense and voice remained the same). There was no correction, as there was no grammatical mistake.’
If what you did was not a correction, and you thought that there was no mistake, then why change anything? Now in your latest entry you are saying that there was a mistake in that a singular noun was not matched with a singular verb. Come on Du Yisa, make up your mind what you want to say.
As for the substance of your argument, the sentence ‘this article assume…’ is correct in English grammar, because the subject is singular and the verb is also a singular, but not in the present tense, as you have now discovered. Within the verb ‘assume’, the mood of ‘what is imagined’, is already built in. So there was no need to change what Baumler wrote.
I had asked Baumler to clarify whether he wanted ‘assume’ or ‘assumes’, but he has made no reply, so one has to assume (by convention) that he meant what he wrote.
‘Creative misinterpretation’- perhaps you like to interpret that for us. You seem not to realise this site is American, a country where its former ‘one of the greatest’ president Bill Clinton said he did not lie in what he said because it depended on how you interpreted what he said (plural/singular, present tense/ past tense). As this article is about ‘freedom of speech’, the freedom to debate, until the intended meaning is clear, is its purpose.
You don’t seem to know the realities of life in America or the West. Explain why the garage’s and builder’s bill never match their quotes/ estimates: Answer, read the contract.
When your country, The PRC, first opened up to do business with the West, lots of business contracts were frustrated at great penalties, because after years of isolation, The PRC had no skills in wording or interpreting contracts in the Western fashion. Your country need more people who, as you say, have a flair for ‘creative misinterpretation’, to stop others from cheating you. This is what very highly paid lawyers do in America. It can start training more people to understand English properly (of course most people in English speaking countries do not have a full knowledge of the English language, in the same way most people in the PRC do not have a full knowledge of Putonghua, but that’s beside the point), and of course that depends on having teachers who themselves actually have a very good understanding of English. Once a contract is signed, you cannot unilateral change a single word, not even the addition or removal of an ‘s’ from a word, as you did here. So the lesson for you here, Du Yisa, is never change anything someone else wrote, without seeking their clarification, and investigate whether there are other ways of interpreting what was written down instead of relying on what you thought things meant and if that didn’t suit you, make a change or two without asking. Of course, the same skill could be transferred into interpreting writings in the subject of history and translation between languages.
As you Chinese say, ‘Face is what other people give you’. If you want ‘face’, you should start by apologising (apologise in Conditional Tense), as people do in the West.
Dear J Chan
It’s time for me to have another tantrum. First, I’d like to thank you very much for your revealing reply, and I have noted both your comments regarding the need for proper English education in the PRC, and your instruction regarding ‘the realities of life’. This is certainly an area in which my knowledge can always use improvement.
Regarding the following:
“If what you did was not a correction, and you thought that there was no mistake, then why change anything?”
The subject for the verb ‘assume’ in the original was plural (it was a compound subject), whereas in my comment, the subject was singular. I edited the number of the verb accordingly, in order to maintain grammatical accuracy, indicating my edit in brackets [ ]. As far as I am aware, this is standard practice. It was not my intent to cause confusion.
“Now in your latest entry you are saying that there was a mistake in that a singular noun was not matched with a singular verb.”
“Come on Du Yisa, make up your mind what you want to say.”
At this point, all I want to say is thank you to Dr. Baumler and the other authors on this site for their contributions. Many thanks, and perhaps I might be able to participate constructively in future discussions.
To J Chan:
It surprises me that one who writes as well as you do would dive head-first into such an egregious bit of nitpicking.
In short: You are a real piece of work. I happen to know Du Yisa, and despite his residence in the PRC, I believe that, in a one-on-one grammar smackdown, you’d lose by a mile. (Feel free to take me to task for metting my mixaphore.)
Let me see if I, with a major in English, a Masters in Education, 25+ years of teaching experience, etc., etc., etc., can explain this in a way that even YOU can understand.
Let’s say you got a letter from your mother that said, “Arthur and his friends go to school Monday through Friday.” And let’s say, J. Chan, that for some unknown reason you wanted to write to your sister about Arthur, and actually QUOTE your mother. Following? Going too fast for you? I’ll type slower.
So you write to your sister, and you say something like: Mom says that Arthur “go[es] to school Monday through Friday.” Are you with me? (By the way, I have left your imaginary writing sample outside of quotation marks so that I don’t have to get into doubles and singles and all, which might just confuse you.)
Now, you weren’t CORRECTING your mother, nor implying that she had made a mistake. (Gods forbid; that would be so un-Confucian, J. Chan.) Rather, you were simply accounting for the fact that you had omitted Arthur’s friends outside of the quotation marks.
Get it? It’s so simple, really. My friend Du had omitted the articles BY OTHERS (“articles like Kurlantzick’s, or like this”), so he turned the verb into a singular one.
Now, even a man of my incredible erudition can be a bit slow at times. Can you explain again how in the name of all that is grammatical a sentence like “The Kurlantzick article assume that the Americans, their model, and their actions are what really matter” could ever be correct? You wrote, “[B]oth the verb conjugations in ‘this article assume’ and ‘this article assumes’ are correct. However they mean different things…” What exactly is the meaning of “this article assume”? I mean, I know it can be used in the subjunctive, if it had the proper context (“Did this article assume otherwise, I would agree with it” might pass; but most people born after the age of Pope and Swift would phrase it “Had this article assumed” or something like that.)
Recapping: Du was not impugning Mr. Baumler’s grammar; he was simply following the time-honored tradition of emending words that are placed into other contexts when inside quotation marks.
YOU, on the other hand, J Chan, are the one who found a mistake where there was none, and expended quite a bit of virtual type on “correcting” it (along with a rather gratuitous rant on “[t]ranslating a Sinitic language into an Indo-European language” which is not AT ALL what was happening here). Isn’t THAT ironic? Don’t you think?
There are two things that really stand out as wonderful in the above exchanges:
1. “In the case of the example here, a simple change in syntax (ie the addition/ deletion of an ’s’ in the English verb conjugation) changes the semantics completely.” Wow. Do you kill flies with a bazooka?
2. The most wonderful thing of all: Mr. Baumler’s “noble silence” regarding all this. I think I’ll join him.
Please note: While I’ve done my best to write the above correctly, errors do creep in. Forgive me. Just be sure you don’t start finding errors where there are none; the real ones will suffice.
Very good. Now let us look back. There is something in QC we call traceability. Let us trace it back to what Baumler wrote shall we?
“I am always a bit amused at articles like Kurlantzick’s, or like this that assume that the Americans, their model, and their actions are what really matter here.”
The subject of ‘assume’ was ‘this’- a singular not a plural as stated by Du Yisa. The plural would have been ‘these’.
It seems I must thank my good friend James for preventing me from bowing out of this gracefully.
J Chan wrote (comment 17):
“The subject of ‘assume’ was ‘this’- a singular not a plural as stated by Du Yisa.”
The subject of ‘assume’ is the demonstrative pronoun ‘that’, which is an anaphor. Its antecedent is the compound noun ‘articles like Kurlantzick’s, or like this’, which is “a plural as stated by Du Yisa.”
Please note that this was overtly clarified in both comments 13 & 15. The grammar of both Dr. Baumler’s original & my response is eminently conventional and pedestrian, although the commentary has been unexpectedly creative.
J Chan wrote (comment 14):
“‘Creative misinterpretation’- perhaps you like to interpret that for us.”
You have already done so brilliantly.
J Chan also wrote (also comment 14):
“So the lesson for you here, Du Yisa, is never change anything someone else wrote, without seeking their clarification, and investigate whether there are other ways of interpreting what was written down instead of relying on what you thought things meant and if that didn’t suit you, make a change or two without asking.”
Thanks for the lesson.
Now I must apologize, as I really must go.
Had ‘that’ been an anaphora for ‘articles’ (plural) in the preceding sub-clause, the preceding demonstrative pronoun would not have been ‘this’ (singular) but ‘those’ or ‘these’ (plural). Here ‘that’ functioned as an adverb. Look at the punctuation, there is no comma after ‘this’ in Baumler’s original writing.
The ‘this’ to which you refer is a hyperlink to a different article, and part of a compound noun, as stated above (comments 15 & 18).
J Chan wrote (comment 19):
“Had ‘that’ been an anaphora for ‘articles’ (plural) in the preceding sub-clause, the preceding demonstrative pronoun would not have been ‘this’ (singular) but ‘those’ or ‘these’ (plural). Here ‘that’ functioned as an adverb. Look at the punctuation, there is no comma after ‘this’ in Baumler’s original writing.”
Other than the last sentence, every single claim in this comment is shockingly wrong. My favorite is the following:
“Here ‘that’ functioned as an adverb.”
How do you do it?
J Chan, this has been fun. Thank you for testing the limits of my incredulity. One of my favorite English aphorisms is ‘reality is stranger than fiction’. Thank you again for showing me “the realities of life”.
Note from Admin: Ok, this whole thing is well beyond silly. Comment deleted for having nothing but insulting content. J Chan you have been warned about your more insulting comments before. If you want to post your comments here, try to maintain a respectful attitude and let us all work towards a productive exchange of information and thoughts.
OK, how about I rest my case for the grammar point.
Weren’t we talking about ‘freedom’ and ‘democracy’ and people being ‘anti Confucian’? Mr Administrator (Lawson), I think the blog from ‘James’ or whoever he is suppose to be was rather insulting. Is this one-sided democracy or are you agreed that Lee Kuan Yu was correct all along?