Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Global Times, you've done it again

I admit, I did not know until now that the Global Times is an English branch of People's Daily, i.e. an English exposure of a mixture of party line and post-Opium War inferiority complex. It was not until a recent article on China Hearsay shared an amusing interview that I was compelled to look the paper's backing (ah, that makes sense now).

China Hearsay may have stimulated an internet-wide bashing of GT -- or at least, I'm going to jump on the bandwagon. My favorite article by Global Times was published just a week ago, and displays a picture of a few personal friends eating food with two (seemingly) Chinese friends with whom I am unacquainted. The title of the article: "Less Sanlitun and a bit more business for Beijing's interns." (read it here)

Global Times caption reads: "Young foreigners party in Sanlitun last night. But should they be out on a school night?"
Let's start with the photo. I personally know the three non-Asian fellows in the picture. Only two of them are students, and one a graduate student. And, it's summer vacation. So should they be out on a school night? Good question.

Secondly, there is not mention of the two (seemingly) Chinese members of the photo. Isn't this picture a case for the achievement of cross-cultural interaction? Knowing these guys, they were probably spitting mad-biaozhun Chinese over a discussion about the facets of China's constitutional law.

Third, there is no evidence of carousal, bacchanalia-ting, imbibing, conversation, or really any life among these "young foreigners." They aren't obviously doing anything. For all I know, they could be playing mahjong.

Fourth, and my favorite, one of the fellows in the photo commented on Facebook that this "party" was after a a nine-hour workday in the office (his company, by the way, very strongly promotes the understanding and preservation of Chinese culture).

The text is no less misleading -- and moreover, riddled with skips in logic.

Unless [young foreign interns] arrange the internship in advance and pay for the privilege, they might not find a welcome in Beijing, according to some employers. Human Resource experts suggest there should be a little less Sanlitun, and a bit more sobriety.

Frédéric Machine, a French wine importer, told the Global Times that he will only use local Chinese interns.

"I know a young foreigner who worked at Hotel G. He got very low pay and somehow he managed to go to bars, partied very hard and got drunk every night," Machine said, adding that he understands why young foreign interns are tempted by the capital's nightlife because Beijing is such a great city for parties.

Let's start with the misinformation in the first sentence. Based on my knowledge, most internships, especially ones that foreign students seek, are not ones they pay to do. Those do exist, but I'm going to wager that most "young foreigners" who go to Beijing are not paying to be a company's slave.  Second, not every "young foreigner" goes to Beijing for an internship. I doubt that statistics exist on it, but I'm again going to wager that less than half the young foreigners are there for an internship, let alone one that they pay to do. The majority of the foreigners I know in Beijing who are not students are at least part-time workers (but mostly full-time), and they teach English, translate, copy edit, report for some form of media, and work for NGO's. Most have some form of income from these jobs.

How about that logic jump to the second sentence? Talk about accusatory generalizations! Phew, we need to get this reporter a good ol' liberal-arts style roasting, I'm talking first-trip-to-the-Dean's-office!

Mr. Machine (nice name!) hints at but does not say why he refuses to hire foreigners. Is it because they party a lot [and therefore productivity is low?] or is it because they demand higher wages than a local might? Or don't have the language/cultural skills of a local?

"There are always people my age coming to Beijing for internships," Brad said. "Many of them paid 20,000 yuan ($3,091) to the companies for an internship and they only stay one month. No one bothers to train them and they have nothing important to do. All they want is to put the internship in their resume."

I'm not exactly how many "many" of them is, Brad (no last name?). Again, I know that some pay for their internships, I've heard it's more of a European practice (just hearsay), but can we have a little data please? Maybe a citation? 
There are interns who only want to have fun, but most are serious about the matter, according to Fu Qiang, program director of Uoutlook Education Investment & Management, a company that started an internship agency service in 2007.
Thanks Fu Qiang for the conciliatory comment. It's the only one we'll see in the article.

There are no precise figures on how many expats come to Beijing or China to intern, but after the worsening economic situation in the West and the relative prosperity of the Chinese market, having work experience in China became an obvious advantage in promotion battles, said Li Zhe, public relationship executive at  British human resources consultancy Antal International in Beijing.
English is probably not the reporter's first language, so I'll go easy on the run-on sentence. And at least she addresses that there is no data to back up her claims (or is that supposed to be a direct quote from Li Zhe?).  
"In 2010 we received two to three calls each week from people who wanted to have an internship, now we receive 20 to 30 calls and e-mails a week," Li added.
Now that's interesting. It's almost like data.
And just when you think the article is getting somewhere, it dissolves into a string of unrelated and unanalyzed quotes that lead back to the foreigners don't understand China mantra. How did I read this far?

Another Global Times reporter (mentioned in the China Hearsay article) practically claws for an expert's decree that foreign media intentionally misrepresents China. I guess the same rules don't apply to international representations of "young foreigners" imperializing Beijing's party scene, bringing huge revenue sources to Sanlitun-like areas,  and dining in cross-cultural achievement with Chinese friends.

(and check out the left side of the picture for an Andy Samberg look-a-like!)

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