I have always hated book and movie reviews that focus on what the book or movie should have been about, but wasn’t. For example, the movie Lincoln, which I loved, took heat from some critics for not focusing nearly enough on the conditions of slavery, as opposed to its abolition. My thinking whenever I see something like that is always two-fold:
- A movie can only be so long, and
- Dude, write your own movie.
I am constantly getting emails asking me (often in an accusatory or conspiratorial tone) why we didn’t write about such and such. For some unknown reason, the number of those has been picking up of late and so I am going to respond to a random bunch of them here, so I can simply link back to this post on the next ones. Here goes, with the typical question in bold font and my typical answer in regular:
1. Why do you never write anything bad about China? Is it because you are concerned it will hurt your business? What are you even talking about? Would it surprise you to learn that I often get emails asking me why I never have anything nice to say about China? Anyway, in answer to your question, I never think about whether my post is China-positive or China-negative, I simply write it and let the chips fall where they may. In fact, I have been accused of being negative when I write what I see as a positive piece, and being a pollyanish China panda when I write what I see as a negative piece. In other words, the spin is often in the eyes of the beholder. I will say that my views of China are that I love the place and it is absolutely central to my business and because of that, I may be too critical of it sometimes and not critical enough of it other times, but I am trying.
2. Why do you hate China? Why do you only have bad things to say about China? Is it because you know the United States is falling and China is rising? See above. You greatly over-estimate me if you think that I think so deeply as to be influenced in my day to day behaviors by something so abstract as countries rising and falling. If you want to psychoanalyze my writing, you would probably be accurate using what I had for lunch that day as opposed to geopolitical positioning.
3. Why didn’t you write about this or that murderous/horrible incident that happened in China today? Why do you never examine China’s moral rot? My most recent email along these lines was about the kindergarten poisonings in Hebei. There are many reasons we don’t cover stories like this, starting with the fact that we really don’t have anything to say about them beyond the trite and obvious. We are not philosophers. We are not journalists. We are not ethicists. We are not sociologists. If I were to write about something like that, about all I would say is that I have two kids of my own and so I can at least imagine how awful the parents of the two kindergartners killed must feel and as a parent, I feel for them. Since hundreds of millions feel the same way, my writing that wouldn’t contribute a thing.
4. Why do you always criticize China and never criticize the United States? Because this is a blog about China, not about the United States. See the Lincoln movie example above. If you want a forum for criticizing the United States, start your own blog and go ahead and call it USLawBlog.com. The funny thing about this criticism though is that in real life (to include Facebook, etc.), I am always harping on how civil rights in the United States have been in a constant state of decline since 2000.
5. Why don’t you ever link to my blog? Why isn’t my blog in your blogroll? We have one criteria for what we write about, what we link over to and what goes into our blogroll. What we as the blog czars think would best serve our readers. Yes, I know we are sometimes wrong on that, no doubt, but we do the best we can and that’s all we can do.
6. Why do you never link over to any foreign blogs/foreign sites? Why don’t you do anything to counter the Western bias of your blog? Two reasons. One, I admit a strong preference for good writing, and, let’s face it, native English speakers generally write in English better than non-native speakers. Two, this blog does have its own viewpoints on China and on everything else and that viewpoint is a Western one. See the Lincoln example if you want another viewpoint. Having said this, however, we are always seeking pieces from contributors from outside my law firm and one of the reasons we seek those people is to bring divergent views to our site. Admittedly, however, we are more focused on getting the views of someone who really knows China retail (just by way of example) than someone who really knows how to examine China’s social structure from a non-western perspective. And that is simply because of how we see our mission and our audience.
7. Why do you never talk about such and such a blog/website? Why is this website not on your blogroll? No big plan here. We just try to write something every day and if some blog or website doesn’t get covered, it’s because we didn’t choose to cover them on that particular day. Our blogroll is for blogs, not websites.
8. Why do you never mention China news/web aggregators? Is it because you know they will put your blog out of business? I actually got this email today regarding China AllTop, from someone who accused us of ignoring it because it never links over to us because it knows we inflate our readership by using proxies and because it is based on quality, not quantity. What? We do just fine on China AllTop, which by the way I absolutely love (along with Hao Hao Report) as a super-quick way to get an overview on China’s trending stories.
9. Why do you always do posts linking to stories/posts/articles written by your friends? If I see another post about _______, can I shoot you? I plead guilty to this one and I can’t help it. I have biases like everyone else. Also, my friends often bring their stories/posts/articles to my attention so some of this is just a top of mind thing. No, you can’t shoot me.
10. Why do you write about things other than China law? Why do you write only about China law? Our focus is and will always be on China law issues as they relate to foriegn companies doing business in China. We sometimes stray from that just because we feel like it.
11. Why do you always end your posts by asking “What do you think?” Don’t you think that is a little bit stupid because everyone knows they can leave a comment without your asking that question? I do that because I want to emphasize how important I find it for there to be discussion. I do that because I want everyone to know that no matter how confident we may seem in whatever points we make in our posts, we are not 100% certain of much at all. We do that because I am convinced that when we do that we do get more discussion. I do that because it is one of our signatures. And I do it even though I know it is a little bit stupid.
What do you think?