More on Coffee and Nationalism

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Rebecca MacKinnon who teaches journalism at the University of Hong Kong, has a great, insightful post on the Forbidden City Starbucks hubbub and the ways it has been portrayed in the Western media. MacKinnon knows China very well (she was Beijing Bureau Chief at CNN in the late 1990s).

Among the things she points out is that Rui Chenggang, the CCTV anchor whose post on Starbucks sparked the controversy,

is being unfairly lumped in with China’s head-banging anti-foreign nationalists – mainly because some such people have been commenting enthusiastically on his blog and citing him as a champion.

Agreed. I’ve met Rui and he’s neither provincial nor nationalistic in a traditional way. I hope I didn’t imply he was in my last post on the subject. MacKinnon also points out that Rui’s not an ordinary blogger or even an ordinary journalist. Rui Chenggang, as Rui Chenggang will happily tell you, is a well connected man. Names don’t just drop from his mouth, they cascade. Names and names, powerful fluvial swirls of names. It’s easy to get lost midstream. But if you do, somewhere between Aspen and Davos, let’s say, fear not. Rui’s World Economic Forum briefcase, dangling helpfully from his shoulder, is there to assist you in recovering your bearings.

Okay. Not the most modest character, this Rui. But his thinking on matters of nationalism has been unduly carcicatured. EastSouthWestNorth has translated an essay he posted on his blog earlier this fall. It’s called, “An Essay About Japan That Every Chinese Person Ought to Read.” There is, yes, more than a touch of the “Hello, my name is Important” Rui here. But I think it’s still worth checking out.