A Man With Two Faces

The very prolific Liu Xiaobo has just published an open letter (in Chinese) to Department of Education leader Zhou Jie on the matter of the crackdown on the Chinese University BBS's (see my previous post Does China Need An Internet Nanny? about Zhou Jie).  I am most intrigued by the fourth and final section of this letter, which I have translated below:

In conjunction with this open letter, I would like to mention a certain Professor of Communications at Tsinghua University.  One of the most important policies in the reform of university BBS's is the requirement to use real names for ID's, and this reminded me of a person named 李希光 (=Li Xiguang in English).  This individual is the Dean of the Tsinghua University School of Journalism.  He has written to the People's Congress to propose using real names as ID's, and was roundly criticized by netizens.  Presently, he can see that the Department of Education has implemented the real name system and smashed the SMTH BBS which had been around for more than ten years, and he is probably quite pleased to see that his proposal to assassinate the Internet has materialized on the Tsinghua campus.

Li Xiguang is the typical two-faced person, and he used English and Chinese to maximize his personal gains.  In his essay titled "The Double Jeopardy of Chinese Journalism and the Dual Identities of Professor Li Xiguang", the Chinese blogger Anti pointed out the following: Li Xiguang is a very peculiar person who can be split into two persons both named Li Xiguang.  One of those persons uses the name "Lixiguang" when he speaks to the western media in English or pens essays in English to advocate the benefits of freedom of media and the perils of opinion suppression.  The other person has the Chinese name 李希光 and is a hatchet person against freedom of expression inside China.

Anti offered these examples: 

"During the SARS period, CNN interviewed him and asked him about why China imposed a national blackout on information.  He bluntly pointed out that there was no need for the government to do so and that the media should be allowed to collect and publish news.  Then he turned around and told the Chinese students that the whole SARS terror was manufactured by the foreign media."

"He had an interesting article titled 'Communication Techniques on the Internet and the Death of Propaganda.'  In that article, he claimed that the rapid technological advancement of the Internet has caused the central government's costs of controlling information to escalate to the point that propaganda is dead.  He bluntly pointed out that China has installed the world's largest firewall to block IP addresses.  Meanwhile, the same Li Xiguang has written to the National People's Congress to ban anonymous usage of the Internet because the function of the news media is to serve political ends."

"To tell the truth, I don't understand Li Xiguang.  The only explanation that I can come up with is that this multiple-identity professor will attempt to be situated in the mainstream depending on whether he is in the English-language or Chinese-language world, even to the point of having a split personality academically and professionally.  In the west, he is a spokesperson on behalf of progress in Chinese media, and has therefore attained significant status with respect to academic resources and voice.  Inside China, he is valued by officialdom and given responsibility to take charge of the very important Tsinghua University.  He lives in two separate worlds, and most people don't realize that."

Accordingly, An Ti sighs: "Heavens!  How can there be two persons?  One of them is known as Li Xiguang and he is a proponent of western media style and a promoter of freedom of information.  The other is known as 李希光 and he is a leader against western media and an assassin of freedom of speech.  I can even quote the words of Li Xiguang directly to refute the rubbish promulgated by 李希光.  Can any other communications scholar in China play the ridiculous game of Li Xiguang versus 李希光?"

Assuming that we accept that Liu Xiaobo's presentation is true (and you should not accept that as a certainty), who is to be blamed for the ascendancy of such a person as Li Xiguang?  Alas, it is the western media (such as CNN) which accept his credentials and statements at face value without checking the record.  In fact, you will probably be enchanted by the two English-language links below.  Indeed, one cannot blame the Chinese officialdom for wanting to shower even more praise and power upon Li as long as he can hoodwink the western media.

Related links: