I was going to call this “the view from abroad”, but then I wondered how many blogs have opened with that sorry old line in recent weeks. So I spent about 5 seconds on that slightly rubbish effort.
Here in the (newly relaunched) CCTV newsroom in Beijing, they have been going big on Nick Clegg. Young fresh-faced strong-of-jaw honest Clegg. Ever since the first TV debate, I have been asked many times “from where did this clean cut polished performer spring forth?” Even though there is a lack of really in-depth analysis of the UK election as a whole (not surprising really, we’re in China), little coverage of the voting process, the political system, and not much about the policies (are there any policies?), they are pretty keen to focus on the personalities, and to pick on on the media worthy ups and unfortunate lows of the campaign. And there seems to be more far attention given to this election than many others around the EU. Perhaps because we’ve had the US-style TV debates, perhaps because of the possibility of a hung parliament. Perhaps our politics are more entertaining and (still a bit) raw… perhaps everyone just loves queer old blighty.
I still find it interesting that media here doesn’t shy away whatsoever from reporting democracy in action in foreign lands (and also street protests in foreign lands). People accept it as just normal stuff that goes on abroad. Maybe they think we’re all insane. It doesn’t necessarily seem to put certain ideas into people’s heads…..but I’m sure it doesn’t need to. But then I wonder if it is really fully understood, by some here anyway. It sometimes very hard to get a real viewpoint. I was recently informed in no uncertain terms that China had bought full democracy to Tibet. In fact this was also stated by the government as fact in a rather prominent speech recently, and was therefore true. When I questioned the use of the words “full” and “democracy”, citing their definitions in the Oxford English dictionary as my sources, I was told it was China’s version of democracy, but that it was democracy nonetheless. A bit like how I was also told that the endless repetitive reporting of various presidential handshakes was “the Chinese way” of journalism…………………… and some more dots I think …………………………………..
I think I am being unfair in fact, and there is a huge amount of real and intelligent political understanding here. There is also a very sad and passive acceptance of the reality of the situation. The problems and practicalities of day to day existence, and the total lack of power that most people hold are topics too weighty for this little, slightly wayward blog entry.
Back to the point!
And so Nick Griffin has made his inevitable debut on Chinese state TV, discussing his rather particular take on the hot issues concerning Barking, East London. Perplexed bafflement followed, and the most telling comment was “there’s something very nasty about that man’s face.”
We’ve had a whole 2 minute report on the monster raving Loony Party’s pub manifesto launch, complete with pedal boats up the Thames, air con units facing outwards, and painted politicians faces. I had to explain their philosophy and very raison d’etre not only to my Chinese colleagues, but also my American, Canadian and Australian colleagues too. We’ve had the last Prime Minister’s questions, which I have to say made me feel very homesick. We’ve had Blunderbus Brown’s Bigot Bother, with the full audio repeated many times last week, followed by contrite apology. And so on….. it’s all been there, bar the in depth Jeremy Paxman stuff, as I say.
It’s all very balanced, and each party has to get the same amount of coverage within a report, as with any good state Broadcasting Institution.
I almost spat out my cabbage (not a euphemism) when I heard today’s clip from Mr Brown. What has happened to this guy? “Let justice roll like water, and righteousness flow like a mighty stream” he thundered, as he waved his arms about like a neurotic John McCririck. This is really a sorry sight, this is someone who is clever, a bit too clever, but not good in front of a camera, being forced to play a media game (which his ‘good friend’ and predecessor helped to create), while at the same time being clearly mentally exhausted. Desperate. It looked like King Kong trying to grab the planes as he falls off the Empire State building. It honestly sounded like a defiant suicide note, and I’ll say again, seemed very very sad.
On a lighter note, just time for a quick hotpot update from a previous blog. Xidan eat-all-you-like-and-more-crucially-drink-all-you-like-for Y40 was visited by three Englishmen and one non drinking Chinese. Despite the place having an apparent 90 minute time limit, we managed to be the last customers not only in the restaurant, but also in the entire shopping centre, having spent 2 and a half hours eating and guzzling and talking loudly. But my fears of the “open tap” policy on draft beer (you go up and help yourself) being altered in the wake of our visit were unfounded. Everyone smiled. Ah, the Brits are here, how lovely. I somehow think we were not the first enthusiastic foreigners to discover the place. Of course we weren’t. We were positively encouraged to go up for more, making me wonder if they throw it away at the end of the night anyway. Everyone waved us a pleasant goodbye as we shuffled off into the night (I think).
There was a recent article somewhere about why expats in Beijing end up drinking so much (ominous). Well Xidan Hotpot and others of its ilk clearly shares some of the blame.
Meanwhile, in breaking news, the same three Englishmen have persuaded the American owner of a bar called The Brick to open on Friday morning at 7am, serve a fry up, and stick BBC World on the telly for the election coverage.