Friday, September 01, 2006

Shanghai, sex, and shades of history

There's a bit of a brouhaha in Shanghai over a sex blog allegedly written by a British English teacher living in the city. The as-yet unidentified blogger was happily posting about his exploits with former students -- mixed in with often negative observations of Chinese society -- until a Chinese university professor named Zhang Jiehai (张结海) stumbled upon it, and urged a 'Net witch hunt to find this guy and get him kicked out of China. The Sex and Shanghai blog (欲望上海) has since been restricted to invited readers, but a cache shows the tone of the blog, as well as the anonymous blogger's response to Professor Zhang. The professor is casting a wide net, judging by the English translation of his call to arms, from the ESWN Blog (東南西北):
'Here is our action plan: In order to kick this piece of garbage out of China, the deed must be carried out by the relevant departments in Shanghai. In order for the relevant departments to take action, the media must intercede. My media friend tells me that the media needs a news "lead" in order to intercede. Therefore, the first step is to create an opinion wave on the Internet to create a happening so that the traditional media such as newspapers and television can have a 'lead' on this matter.

Phase One (From today to early September)

During this phase, will various compatriot netizens please send this essay to all your friends via email and then ask your friends to send to all their friends? After sending this out five times, this may reach everyone who owns a computer in China. Through the forums and blogs, we will let more people (especially Chinese women) know about this affair. Since the affair occurred within the universities, we ask that this to be posted at all the university BBS's in Shanghai. Only letting all the Chinese women know about this affair can have a truly educational effect. By reducing the number of that kind of Chinese women, we can destroy this kind of ugly foreigners. Otherwise, we get rid of one piece of garbage but many more pieces of garbage will come. .... If people think that there is a foreign language teacher who fits these descriptions, or otherwise find valuable clues, please leave a comment at my blog or contact me directly via email. Netizens and compatriots, if you are a Chinese man with guts and if you respect Chinese women, please join this "Internet hunt for the immoral foreigner"! Let us act together!'
It's interesting how Professor Zhang is manipulating the Internet and local media to achieve his goal. But it's also very unfortunate. The British blogger certainly deserves to be publically criticized for his unfair generalizations of Chinese men. It is also unfair to his female friends to describe personal details of their alleged encounters in such a public forum, especially if they can be identified by their names and other details.

But for a university professor -- a psychology professor, at that -- to initiate a witch hunt against this man (and, by association, the women he has been with) for perceived moral transgressions and insults is outrageous. Modern Chinese history teaches us that public anger in China relating to other countries' policies toward China, and the behavior of foreigners in China, can very easily get out of control. The Boxer Rebellion in 1899-1900 and the violent demonstrations against African students living in China in the 1980s are two examples of anti-foreigner mob sentiment turning ugly.

With the current situation involving the British blogger, it is not hard to imagine his female friends -- or other women who happen to have Western boyfriends or spouses -- being ostracized or abused in other ways, ranging from having their names and pictures plastered all over the 'Net to being attacked in the street.

I wonder what it's like for Westerners living in Shanghai, especially those with local friends from the opposite sex? What's it like going out on the street with them, as Professor Zhang's angry message shoots around the city?

I've written about this topic before, as it relates to domestic victims of Chinese 'Net mobs: Internet vigilantes in China.


James Chang said...

Greetings from Cambridge.

Your post on this issue is the first post by a "Westerner" (what does that concept even mean?) on this fiasco that's balanced. Most other Western blogger have been extremely quick in jumping onto the wagon, lynching Zhang Jiehai for being xenophobic, etc.

But is he? Think about it. After years and years of Anglo-American propaganda of Chinese backwardness and stereotyping of Chinese people, particularly Chinese men, what else should one expect? That we're supposed to act like a good ole' house boy, humbly concurring our white masters' opinion of ourselves?

I Lamont said...

Thanks James, for your comment. I certainly don't expect anyone to act like a "house boy", but to respond to writings that one doesn't like by forming a real-life mob to hunt down this writer and his alleged sex partners is outrageous. Professor Zhang is a Chinese intellectual, but acts like an immature rabble-rouser. He also seems to have a very short memory -- it wasn't that long ago that mob rule reigned supreme in China, and intellectuals were at the receiving end of terrible abuse.

Anonymous said...

it is undeniable a lot of english teachers are not there for teaching business in shanghai. many lack of other skills, feel like they are the god having lots of money and female attention living in china,hence take advantage of that. lots are referred as 'white trash' not by the chinese, but by many hardworking western expats in shanghai.