The Shocking Truth About China

Hong Kong, June 16-21 — I was in Hong Kong two weeks before President Clinton arrived in China, which is why I think I was detained when I tried to cross the border to mainland China and visit Shenzhen, a city that butts up against northernmost Hong Kong and is labeled a “Special Economic Zone.” Think Akron, Ohio, if Akron were the only place in Ohio where you could legally buy stuff like big-screen televisions.

It was my impression that the border guards believed I was a plucky young journalist looking to get into China before Clinton got there in order to get the “real” Chinese reaction to his visit. Not a bad idea, but not my plan. Nevertheless, sitting in a dingy, white-tiled room staring into the silent face of a Chinese soldier for just under two hours allowed me time to reflect on a few things:

(1) The Chinese government, though more complex and ambiguous than many are willing to admit, is basically pretty evil. (2) To think otherwise is wrong. (3) Murdoch’s bend-over-backward approach to appeasing the Chinese is not very different from Clinton’s efforts to “engage” them. In fact, because Murdoch has never pretended to be concerned with anything other than China’s economic potential as it relates to his company, his relationship with China is more easily reconciled, and certainly more honest, than Clinton’s. (4) There’s no doubt that Murdoch disagrees with the Chinese — his decision to work with them is the ultimate example of his completely apolitical nature and his willingness to bend in any direction to fill a media vacuum. (5) This is capitalism, which is what you have a problem with if you have a problem with Murdoch. (6) If you have a big problem with capitalism or Murdoch, you shouldn’t send unsolicited essays to The Nation; you should either run for office, start a revolution, or move to France.