China’s “Techniques of Hospitality”

Catching up on my reading this weekend, I came across this article by Gary Rosen in last December’s issue of Commentary. He spent a few weeks traveling through China as a guest of various East-West bridge-building organizations, and his experience was remarkably similar to the one I had earlier this month in Beijing.

In a lot of ways, his piece is just a better-executed version of the one I wrote for the Citizen last week; in particular, Rosen is an acute observer of the way the Chinese try to co-opt journalists through hospitality, but are undone by their pervasive thin-skinnedness:

Regularly treated like representatives of the U.S., we could not avoid the feeling that, whatever our professional responsibilities, part of our job was to act as goodwill ambassadors. We were eager to make a positive impression, to show the right mix of curiosity, appreciation, and politeness. When Mr. Huang pointed out this or that Chinese achievement, our inclination was to praise it, as if wanting to let the Ministry of Foreign Affairs know that, yes, we really did like the country. Above all, we did not wish to give offense or to confirm our hosts’ preconceptions about American “China-bashing.”

Worth reading the whole thing.

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