Han Han Talks Back To TIME
(TIME) Han Han: China's Literary Bad Boy. By Simon Elegant. November 2, 2009.
On a recent afternoon at the Shanghai Tianma Circuit race-car track, the 1,000-strong crowd was treated to the sight of one of the competitors ¡X still dressed in his driver's jumpsuit ¡X walking slowly past the officials' stand, one arm held aloft with the middle finger of his hand extended. "My only regret," he later wrote on his blog, "is that I couldn't show both fingers at the same time because I happened to be having a phone conversation."
The driver was 26-year-old Han Han: best-selling novelist, champion amateur race-car driver, wildly popular blogger and, as his self-consciously provocative antics at the track underlined, China's most media-savvy celebrity rebel. Since 2000, when he burst onto China's literary scene at the age of 17 with his first best seller, Triple Gate, Han has shrewdly mined a seam of youthful resentment and anomie through his stories of anguished characters in their late teens and early 20s. One of China's top-earning authors, he is widely seen as a torchbearer for the generation born after the beginning of the country's opening to the outside world, a group the Chinese call the "post-'80s generation": apolitical, money- and status-obsessed children of the country's explosive economic boom. Even China's most notorious anti-Establishment figure, 52-year-old artist and activist Ai Weiwei, called Han "brave, clear-minded, dynamic and humorous" and predicted that he would be the "gravedigger" for the older generation of writers and artists.
Han, a high school dropout, has built a franchise by tweaking his elders, once stating, "No matter how rude and immature they are, how unskillfully they write, the future literary world belongs to the post-'80s generation. They must be more arrogant. A writer must be arrogant." Yet despite his youthful bravado, Han, who has published 14 books and anthologies, generally stays away from sensitive issues such as democracy and human rights. His calculated rebelliousness, says Lydia Liu, a professor of Chinese and Comparative Literature at Columbia University, exemplifies the unspoken compact his generation has forged with the ruling Communist Party: Leave us alone to have fun and we won't challenge your right to run the country. "He is known for being a sharp critic of the government and the Establishment but he isn't really," says Liu. Instead, she says, Han is a willing participant in a process that channels the disaffected energy of youth into consumerism. "The language in his novels and the narrative strategies are very easy to read," says Liu. "Basically it's all the same book."
In person, Han, the son of an editor of a small Shanghai newspaper, is carefully groomed in an epicene, metrosexual way that is unusual among Chinese males of his age. Affable if slightly wary, he is an old hand at interviews, deftly batting away questions that don't suit him, including most concerning the current state of Chinese literature and his place in it. "It's stupid to try to evaluate one's own works," he says, lacing his answer with frequent expletives. "If you are too humble, people won't take you seriously; and if you think too highly of yourself, it's not good for you either." As for other writers, Han flaps a manicured hand: "I don't do this kind of comparison. And frankly, I don't think your readers will be interested in Chinese literature at all." Nor is he. "I don't read fiction now," he says. "All I read are magazines. I stopped reading books seven to eight years ago. I think I've read enough."
If Han seems flippantly dismissive on the subject of fiction, social and political issues draw a more serious response. Asked whether China will ever have a democratic system of government, Han becomes pensive: "I can accept the fact that there's no real democracy or multiparty system in this country in the foreseeable future. There are more urgent and realistic issues, such as press and cultural freedom. At least those issues are not hopeless. And I prefer doing things that are not hopeless."
Certainly, his fellow Netizens feel that his efforts are by no means hopeless. Han's blog, which has registered well over 200 million hits since it was started in 2006, making him one of the most popular bloggers on the planet, covers everything from the minutiae of the amateur racing world to diatribes about the hot social issue of the day on the Internet. "Neither fame nor wealth have changed his honesty or the sharpness of his criticism," says novelist Zhang Yueran of Han. "To me he's like the little boy in The Emperor's New Clothes, whose provocative attitude doesn't allow people to be self-satisfied."
At a time when China's authorities appear to be continually increasing censorship of the Internet, it's remarkable that Han has not been muzzled. But there apparently are limits even for rebels with no particular cause. Han's latest project is a literary magazine that remains nameless following a rejection by the government of Han's proposed title, Renaissance of Art and Literature. Asked why the title was rejected, he blurts an expletive and launches into a characteristic rant: "Oftentimes [the authorities] are just messed up in the head. No one knows what they are thinking." Least of all Han. "Lots of people ask me how I strike a balance in my writing and not annoy the authorities," he says. "The answer is, I don't know." Perhaps not, but this ignorance is bliss ¡X for it allows Han to remain popular both with China's hundreds of millions of readers and the authorities who would control what they read.
(Youth Weekend) American <TIME> magazine wrote article about "China's Literary Bad Boy"; Han Han mocks himself for being "set up" by American. By Wang Yuan. November 12, 2009
In the latest issue of the Asian edition of the American magazine <TIME> the focus was on the post-'80s generation Chinese writer Han Han. The heading of this <TIME> magazine positioned Han Han as "China's literary bad boy."
Han Han was not enthusiastic about the aforementioned label. In his interview with us, Han Han said directly to point: "In truth, I cannot even enter the gates of the Chinese literary scene." He also hinted that the <TIME> interview was a set-up on him.
In this <TIME> magazine essay, Han Han appears to be quite "wild."
When the <TIME> magazine reporter asked Han Han to rate himself, he replied: "If you are too humble, people won't take you seriously; and if you think too highly of yourself, it's not good for you either." "How would you rate other writers?" The reporter pursued. Han Han only said: "American readers are not likely to be interested in Chinese literature, and I am not interested in American literature either." Then he said frankly that he has not read any fiction for the past six or seven years. He only reads magazines, "because I think I've read enough."
On November 7, our reporter contacted one of the authors of the magazine essay, Jessie Jiang. When asked why <TIME> was interested in Han Han, Ms. Jiang told our reporter: "<TIME> magazine has been paying attention to the post-'80s generation of Chinese writers as early as 2004. At the time, Han Han was included."
Our reporter verified that four Chinese 80's-generation writers were written up in the Asian edition of <TIME> magazine in 2004. They were labeled as "alternative" by the magazine. The front cover person was the Beijing young female writer Chun Shu. But it seems that the Americans are getting more interested in Han Han now.
"The greatest impression that Han Han made on me was that he was especially intelligent and especially humorous." Jessie Jiang said that they began to interview Han Han in July this year. In order to complete the report, Jessie Jiang interviewed Han Han twice.
"Both interviews took place in Beijing. On one occasion, he was entered in an auto race in Beijing. We did not discuss the topics of the interview beforehand. He gladly agreed to accept our interview." According to Jessie Jiang, <TIME> magazine selected Han Han as an interview subject because: "We want to find someone who represents the Chinese literary scene. We can write about many things when we interview him. Han Han is an alternate figure, so we positioned him as a 'bad boy.' These young writers are talented and innovative, and they have become a force that cannot be ignored on the Chinese literary scene."
"In the last century, it seems that the only Chinese artist who appeared in the American edition of <TIME> magazine was Zhang Ziyi. During this century, many famous Chinese persons have made the front cover of the Asian edition of <TIME> magazine. They were almost always from the literary or art scenes, the entertainment industry or sports. No matter what, given the authoritativeness and tremendous influence of <TIME> magazine, we have reason to believe that all the people that we featured are bellwethers for Chinese social changes and symbols of the changes in the times. For example, Li Yuchun was on the cover of the Asian edition on October 10, 2005, and she can be be seen as an ordinary individual but also as the rise of individuality and strength."
A while ago, Han Han was interviewed by <Southern Metropolis Weekly> magazine and said "I and Guo Jingming have different genders" in order to make fun of the other person. But now the American defined Han Han as neutral gender. In <TIME> magazine essay, it was written: "Han Han dresses in a sexually neutral way." (Translator's note: The <TIME> magazine essay actually says "carefully groomed in an epicene, metrosexual way that is unusual among Chinese males of his age.")
The report also cited a Columbia University Chinese and Comparative Literature professor who assessed the rebellious nature of Han Han: "People think that Han Han uses sharp language to criticize the ills of the Chinese government and system, but he actually isn't. On the contrary, he is quite glad to use his essays to channel the disaffection of people who are the same age as him." The professor also analyzed Han Han's psychology: "Give me enough freedom to do what I like to do, and I will not pose any threat to your regime."
Faced with <TIME> magazine's assessment, Han Han has something to say himself. On November 8, Han Han gave an email reply to our reporter's questions about the <TIME> magazine essay.
Q: The American <TIME> magazine positioned you as "China's literary bad boy." What do you think about this label? Do you agree?
A: That is something that they came up with. In truth, I cannot even enter the gates of the Chinese literary scene.
Q: <TIME> magazine has always been interested in the Chinese literary scene, but not many Chinese writers have been featured. Have you thought about why <TIME> magazine paid attention in you? In what way are you 'bad'?
A: I don't think a one- or two-page interview in <TIME> magazine constitutes attention. In truth, they only felt that this was interesting ...
Q: In the <TIME> magazine essay, you were tagged as "sexually neutral." In your previous interview with <Southern Metropolis Weekly>, you said that you and Guo Jingming have different genders. But this time the American tagged you as "sexually neutral" ...
A: This is the reason why I don't like to be interviewed by foreign media. First of all, it wastes a lot of time because it takes twice as long to conduct an interview. Secondly, they sometimes completely fail to understand or appreciate you. On that day, I was participating in the Beijing leg of the national car rally championship. Our team wore orange-colored uniforms, so maybe they thought that was sexually neutral. If they had interviewed Ferrari's Schumacher, they might have to say that he dresses like a woman because their team wears red-colored uniforms.
Q: What do you think about the opinion of the Columbia University Chinese and Comparative Literature professor?
A: That is another reason why I don't like to be interviewed by foreign media. In truth, I think that all foreign media hold contempt for the Chinese people deep down in their bones. They often already have their own viewpoints, which are even more or less completed before they do the interview. It does not matter what you tell them, they will only make a brief resumé of you and then they will frame you up inside their essay.
Of course, I do not believe that this Columbia University professor has read my essays. Professors inside and outside of China can give each other a run on this. They have already formed their own system of theory. Therefore they have a full set of multi-purpose phrases to use. These phrases may seem reasonable and perceptive, but they are actually vacuous. She could have swapped the name "Han Han" for anyone else. She may have conned her doctoral students but it is harder to con me.
There is a lot of pressure on the post-80s generation which has no happiness to speak of. The reality in our society and the high housing prices have dissolved their ideals. In truth, they are a generation which is slowly awakening. The flourishing of information began with this generation, and they are also the generation with the highest social qualities. Many of the traditional ills of the Chinese people have begun to disappear in them. They no longer believe in many of the things from before. They do not have any faith, which is a truly good thing. Having no faith has to be better than having the wrong faith. They are building up their own faith. This is a very important point. I hope that the nation that I live in can become more and more rational without any bloodshed or people killing each other. This will preserve the strength of our nation to the maximum. Otherwise, what will we have left to compare with America, right?
Q: Some people said that the young literary man with an uncertain future has now become one of the most influential public intellectuals in China who is not afraid to stand on the opposite side of others. What do you think of the label "public intellectual" that people have given you?
A: Public intellectual are sometimes like public toilets. They are there for people to let off; afterwards, they don't have to be cleaned; furthermore, they must also be free; if you charge 50 cents for a piece of toilet paper, they may even kick your wall a couple of times. When a city does not have public toilets, many people will have to defecate right in the streets. Therefore, this role is actually pathetic. But if everybody in the city, even those who have their own toilets at home, come to this public toilet to defecate, then this society has hope.
Q: What difference have you made to the Chinese literary scene?
A: The different thing that I have brought to the Chinese literary scene is to show that even athletes can write essays.
(China Daily) My pen pal Han Han. By Raymond Zhou. December 4, 2009.
You don't know me and I'm not exactly a fan of yours. So, don't throw this letter away as fan mail.
I happened to come across Time Asia's recent profile of you. And I read your response in Youth Weekend. I empathize with you. You may have found a way to shake off the shackles you were born with, but you ended up in a trap set up by the Western media.
You thought a Time interview would bump up your career another notch. Remember what the New York Times piece did for Guo Jingming? He got the moniker, "China's most successful writer", and what did you get out of the Time deal? You came off as a potty-mouthed, egotistical, effeminate, consumerism-driven brat, the equivalent of a drag queen in the US.
But isn't that a portrait you painted of your archrival, Guo Jingming? Well, except for the expletives, which means Guo now has a more unsullied image than you do.
You should have picked up a trick or two from Guo and had someone translate a few lines from the Time piece, preferably out of context. The quotes from Ai Weiwei or Zhang Yueran would do fine.
Western media tend to duly record the things they like, such as the circulation number for China's "preferred" publications, even though it tends to be laughably inflated. Yet they get into a critical mode when it comes to things that don't fit their nice and nifty framework. Whatever you said was presented in a way that people came away with more misgivings than appreciation.
While Guo got the crown, you were tagged as a "bad boy", which does not carry a positive connotation in Chinese translation. I know you don't mind, but "rebel with no particular cause"? That's gotta hurt.
You don't understand. If you persuade 10 million people, especially youths, with subtly subversive arguments, you are still nothing. Yes, you even defended Sharon Stone. But to a correspondent bent on serious subjects, that could be another juvenile antic. But if you boil down everything to a slogan, which you shout or unfurl in a public place, now that's something the outside world can understand. Sure, foreign reporters have researchers and translators, but much of what you write is not translatable. It's the unsaid that makes you unique and keeps you from being "muzzled". Leung Man Tao called you "the future Lu Xun of China", but blatant that he was, Lu did not get across to foreign readers, even with super English translations.
This humiliation follows on the heels of Time's earliest coverage of you, in 2000, when you were lumped together with Wei Hui and Mian Mian, torchbearers of girlie lit mixed with libido. Had you known that, you'd been better off shifting to romance. All you needed to do was provide glossy photos and let the ghostwriter fill in the text. You could have sold more copies that way.
To earn respect from the overseas press, you have to present yourself as an activist or dissident. You have to sprinkle your conversations with words like "democracy", "human rights" and "the planet we live on". You have to put on a grave appearance when describing the tens of millions who are starving, preferably with tears in your eyes. And don't forget to mention the melting of icebergs and the suffering of polar bears. Before you know it, you'll pick up international awards as if they were fan letters.
Or you can bribe government censors to shut down your blog for a month. Have them launch a wide-ranging campaign against you. Organize students nationwide to denounce you. The shortest cut to Western credibility, I must add, is to get yourself thrown in jail. Until that happens, you are simply another "willing participant" - even though you are the most prominent non-member of China's Writers' Association.
By the way, that association hates you. The Establishment clenches its fist. Guo Jingming and his followers sharpen their knife. Yet, they do not come out to say anything bad about you. That essentially transforms you into a Don Quixote - with a racecar instead of a lance.
Now Time magazine brands you a calculated rebel without a cause who carries on in an "epicene and metrosexual way". That's probably worse than your school making you a "three-good" student or a Lei Feng reincarnate.
It reminds me of the set of airbrushed photos of you and Guo as a pair of lovebirds. You were the prince and he the lovelorn princess. You recently confirmed this bond by saying your difference with Guo is in "gender". If that's true, doesn't that make you two a lesbian couple now?
Which, inadvertently, makes Li Yuchun the real man in China, or she wouldn't have become the poster boy for democracy on the Time cover. Next time you pose up for a Time photoshoot, ask Brother Chun for fashion advice.
On second thought, you shouldn't sit for another Time interview. Brother Chun did not give them the chance to talk to her, and they put her on their cover. You said no to US President Obama. Unlike Hecaitou, as close a Han Han wannabe as I can think of, you knew you couldn't squeeze any substance from a so-called dialogue with youth. Look how the experience has traumatized Hecaitou. His question about Twitter was relayed to the US president by the US ambassador. Now he was transformed from a big Obama admirer to a big Obama basher simply because Obama responded he "supports free speech", but did not say he "opposes censorship", which seems to be the only right answer to Hecaitou. His sardonic diatribe against Obama's "compromise" in his blog - and printed in Southern Metropolis Daily - would be great material for Rush Limbaugh.
Yet you succumbed to Time. It could have been a momentary weakness, but you squandered the extra points in rebelliousness you had just earned. If they can't talk to you, they'll have to rely on those around them. That's a special circle that does not correspond to your fan base. But generally, the more aloof you appear, the more highly they'll regard you.
Another approach is the Wang Xiaofeng way. After Time put him in the "You" category in their 2006 Person of the Year feature, he wrote a fictional account of how he bought off their editor to hand him the honor. Now that's what I'd call unconventionally rebellious.
You said you were "set up". You can learn a thing or two from Brother Wang. He was "set up" by a foreign news agency when it made him into a dissident from an interview with him. What did he do? He turned the table and set up a ruse for them by shutting down his blog and going into hiding. Failing to reach him, the agency concluded it must be the fault of the government and published a story as they imagined it.
Enfant terrible you may be, you'll probably not repeat this scheme because it has been done before. You'll have to come up with something worth your wit and novel-writing skill (which Time puts in doubt). It has been fun playing fast-tracking David when the Establishment happily assumes the bumbling role of Goliath. But when your target is a sacred cow from the West, you'd better learn the rope, matador. Driving a racecar may win over autograph-seeking girls, but not soundbite-seeking members of the press.
Regards, Raymond Zhou
(Hecaitou's Blog) A model "fifty-cent" essay. December 4, 2009.
There are so many 'fifty-cent gangsters' out there who write dreadful essays which can only be described as "hysterical shrieks and flying saliva." Although this job is low-status with lousy pay, it does require professionalism. On this day, I am presenting an essay from the China Daily website executive editor-in-chief Raymong Zhou to serve as a model essay for "fifty-cent gangers" in all the other branches in China.
Junior 'fifty-cent gansters' only know to howl, whereas senior 'fifty-cent gangsters' know how to write open letters, act as if "someone helps wants to harm you whereas I am trying to be good to you" and put on a patient pose instead of a stern expression. Mr. Zhou is one of the best in the business. This <Letter to Han Han: You fell into the trap that TIME set for you> essay praised Han Han first, but it really wants to say: "See how much I care about you, how must I look after your interests, how much I want you to succeed. But if you don't do what I tell you, I am going to be very disappointed." Or even more simply put: "Han Han, you better watch yourself."
The only problem is that Raymond Zhou does not carry as much weight as Han Han. This type of concern is just leveraging the reputation of Han Han to elevate oneself. If he has the time to write a letter to Han Han, how about writing a letter to the government leaders instead? But this is precisely the strength of Raymond Zhou. If his readers can see only his gentle and mild demeanor, then he will be able to sneak his personal message. As Jin Yong's famous character Wei Xiaobao said, the key to lying is that out of ten sentences, there should be nine accurate ones and only one lie. Clearly, Raymond Zhou and Wei Xiaobao are of the same mind. So all 'fifty-cent gangsters' should pay close attention because this job can pay as much as 125 yuan per piece if you are as good as Raymond Zhou.
By the way, Raymond Zhou also scorned that Heicaitou's blog post about Obama's China trip should also be sent to the conservative media in America. There is no need to trouble Raymond Zhou, because the American conservative media have already reported this, including Associated Press. My understanding is that they thought that my viewpoint was one that should be reported and shared. Oh, but you don't even have to read Raymond Zhou's essays in order to find his viewpoints, because you can just read the Xinhua editorials or whatever. At least the latter are direct without digression or resorting to open letters.
Finally, that letter was the first media report in China to openly address Li Yuchun as "Elder brother Chun." Master Raymond Zhou, you have done something that countless number of editors and reporters wanted to do but dared not. You are truly awesome!
(Hecaitou's Blog) Anti-TIME. December 4, 2009.
We live in an imperfect world. Our media is an example. Very few Chinese media speak the truth, so whenever a reporter actually does his duty, the readers will consider it as an heroic act. When foreign media report on things inside China, they are rarely free of biases and misreadings, so that they cannot present the full picture of the vast China. Their reporters are re-posted elsewhere every three or five years, so that there are very few experts who have deep understanding of China and its people.
But this is not necessarily any big deal. The greatest virtue of the Chinese people is that they can cope with anything. Over the years, they have learned to read Chinese news in reverse and they can basically deduce the truth. Whenever is nothing readable, they can look at the foreign media reports which have a high density of truthfulness even though the conclusions are not necessarily correct because they typically write the scripts according to their own ideas. But this is how the world is and you have to find the answers on your own. The truth is always a jigsaw puzzle. Haven't your mom and dad told you that they picked you out of a garbage heap? Did you believe them? There has never been a perfect media and there has never been a completely truthful news report. You must have your own judgment. There is the saying that "things become clear if you listen to many voices, but things become dim if you listen to just one voice Ý§v则©ú¡A°¾§v则·t." The important thing is to listen to different voices about the same thing. That is the bottom line.
These is how normal people think. That is, if you have the brains, you can come up with similar conclusions as a result of certain experiences. But there is some abnormal thinking too. For example, some people say that the western media are basically evil because they have always harbored a certain malice against China. The conclusion becomes: "If you are interviewed by western media, you will fall into their trap." This is the first-stage of paranoia. The western media may be stupid, and they may be arrogant. But if you want to them to band together to do "evil," then not even Stalin and Hitler together can make that happen.
Based upon my experience, no western media will report that there will be no increase in duty fees on stock transactions on a Friday, and then report again that there will be an increase on Saturday after the markets close. No western media will refuse to report the spread of SARS in their own country and say instead that everything is safe and sound. It is pure evil to lie to the stock investors and to ignore the people's right to life. But we have seen this happen innumerable times in China.
Therefore when China Daily website executive editor-in-chief and renowned film critic Raymond Zhou reminded Han Han to be cautious about the trap set by TIME, I laughed. Compared to the mainland media calling Han Han the Lu Xun of this generation, how deep a hole can TIME dig? When the hat of Lu Xun is put on a Chinese person, the gallows are already prepared for him including the "national flag" to be laid over his corpse. Each time that someone is pronounced to be the reincarnation of Lu Xun, there is a crew of malicious cowards following behind. If this Lu Xun reincarnation should succeed, everybody gets a share; if he should fail -- and most likely he will fail -- then everybody gets to enjoy the spectacle and even write a commemorative essay to earn some royalty payment.
Mr. Raymond Zou published an open letter to tell Han Han not to fall into the trap set by the American ghouls. Those several thousand words want to say:
1. TIME's report made you look bad and so you were tricked.
2. The western media are evil. In order to satisfy them, you have to become a human rights warrior.
3. Human rights warriors are clowns. You have to value your status and not hurt yourself for this reason.
4. In conclusion, don't accept any more western media in the future. Do not become a human rights warrior as they hope.
But my questions are: Based upon what Raymond Zhou said, should Han Han blog the Shanghai entrapment of "black taxis"? Should he blog the incident of Shanghai woman Ms. Pan defending her home with firebombs? Should he blog about the several hundreds of million yuan spend to replace road signs in Shanghai? Obviously, TIME did not interview Han Han because he was a race car driver, nor because he was a bestselling writer. They were trying to read from the person of Han Han the specific mentalities of the post 80s generation in China and see if these fit the values that they have defined beforehand. From the TIME report, they were disappointed. As I said before, they sometimes write scripts according to their own ideas but reality does not always fit those scripts. But it is going too far to say that this was a smear. As for the allegation of an entrapment, there is no need to insult Han Han as if he was an idiot who would be riled up and follow your prescription for action.
There is nothing surprising about this nonsense from Raymond Zhou. But we have to be wary of the open hostility displayed in his open letter. The western media were made out to be evil people who want to shove every Chinese people into the fire pit. At the same time, he tied those who dared to fight for the rights of people onto the chariots of the evil western media:
Or you can bribe government censors to shut down your blog for a month. Have them launch a wide-ranging campaign against you. Organize students nationwide to denounce you. The shortest cut to Western credibility, I must add, is to get yourself thrown in jail. Until that happens, you are simply another "willing participant".
What does that mean? My interpretation is that: Those whose blogs were shut down, those who were criticized by a mass mobilization and those who were sent to prison did so in order to get a page in TIME and win the approval of the western media. It has been a long time since that I have not read any such cold-blooded words. If Raymond Zhou has the guts, he should provide a name list of such people and tell the public: Did these people think that "the quickest way to gain the approval of the western media" was to go to jail? Does Raymond Zhou not want Han Han to any more western media interviews? Does Raymond Zhou not want Han Han to blog about social injustices any more?
(Rose Luqiu's Blog) December 5, 2009.
Q1. What do you think of the criticism that young people today have no sense of responsibility or duty?
I am relatively well off. I started to work very early on. I cannot say that I am rich, but I must say that I don't have a lot of pressure with respect to survival. As a result, I can afford to be concerned about certain things. Although our Party is very smart, they live under so much pressure that they don't have the time to worry about those things. It is good enough to be able to survive and live on.
People have asked me if there is a lost generation or some such. Actually, I don't think that there is a lost generation. If a generation is to be lost, then it takes the collapse of the real estate system before a true new generation can emerge. Otherwise, I think that the current thinking in China is still somewhat traditional and we cannot change that. We cannot blame the young people: Why must you buy a house before getting married? Why can't you just rent? I don't think that these kinds of things can be changed in short order, but housing prices can be changed. Therefore, when the real estate industry collapses, young people can move into a middle-age mentality directly. Right now, I don't think that there are any young people.
That is one side of the story. On the other side, I don't think that young people are at fault. They did not cause any of the faults. All the faults were committed by their elders but the young people end up with the burden. All the huge profits that arise from real estate and other things went to the older generations and not to the young people. Therefore I feel that the young people are innocent. In truth, from the beginning of education in China, there has been a lot of brain-washing going on. But this generation of young people is gradually improving in quality. Behaviors like littering or spitting in public are getting better than before. These things are starting slowly. But I felt that this generation of young people are quite pitiful. They did not do anything wrong. They had to accept everything passively, because they hold no speech rights. Therefore we cannot blame them.
Q2. Why do you persist on blogging and why do you blog about current affairs?
I like to write that way because I can get the quickest reaction. The blog can be read by many people immediately. When I want to say something, I can say it immediately. I find it hard to imagine that if I had lived in a former era, you can write an essay in a magazine and one month later I write a response in one of those monthly magazines. If that was how it went, I am sure that everybody would have forgotten about the issues already.
I only think that I am doing basically what a writer should be writing about. This is because I feel that anyone who writes anything should have the most basic responsibilities. If not, you cannot be called an author or writer. Actually any writer is going to be someone who gives the authorities some headache, and this is true not matter how great the authorities are. This is true for authorities everywhere in the world. The key thing is that it does not even require any deliberate need to focus on certain issues. In our country, there will always be some unexpected news that will emerge and inspire you.
Q3. More people buy the books of Guo Jingming than the magazine <Soloist> that you edit?
In any society, don't you think more people will buy Honda and Toyota cars than Mercedes-Benz and BMW cars? Actually our magazine publishing company consists of a group of inexperienced people who don't know much. We don't know anything, so we are only responsible for putting out this magazine. According to our views, we will assemble contents that are permissible under our National Constitution and we submit the magazine for censorship review. If the General Administration for Press and Publications or the publisher say that a certain essay cannot appear, we will obey. If they say no to a certain essay, we will remove that essay. Since we do not have other back-up plans, that space will be left blank. We will set up a tombstone for that essay.
(Southern Weekly) 2009 Person of the Year interview and reaction By Tim Hathaway. January 2, 2010.
The last edition of 2009 for Southern Weekly happened to fall on December 31. The year end round up is also a decade ending round up, complete with prognostications about the next ten years. For those interested in what quality Chinese journalism looks like, there is an interesting section on the year¡¦s best reporting.
The focus of the issue, however, is the person of the year for 2009. The honor went to Han Han [韩´H] who has the most visited blog in the world and has been a best selling author for some time. He also makes a name for himself racing cars. Han Han was born in the ¡¥80s and and couldn¡¦t be more different from other persons of the year who were born before 1978. The headline for the section on Han Han reads: 2009 Person of the Year ¡VTo be Han Han is to be in your face.
The choice took me by surprise because he seems to me a representative of youth culture rather than a leader. He has made no significant contributions to society but the force of his public persona and attitude towards life are a harbinger of things to come. What will Chinese society be like when his generation takes the helm?
He seems to me pragmatic to a fault. He is realistic and straightforward about what he thinks and what he thinks is often intelligent, yet far from intellectual. He is apolitical. He is focused on whatever makes him happy and realizing individual dreams, making him the closest approximation to the ¡¥me¡¦ generation of the U.S.
The interview he gave Southern Weekly did not have much depth, which seemed intentional. If there is one difference between the Chinese ¡¥me¡¦ generation and that of the U.S. it is that the Chinese are much less pretentious, at least in public. Han Han certainly does not take himself too seriously and maybe that's a lesson for us all.
Here is a rough translation of most of the interview titled "What I want most in the end is a harmonious life" with some links to year end round ups at some English language media at the bottom.
SW: It¡¦s been ten years since you wrote Triple Door [¡m¤T«门¡n]. The world, China and even you have changed a lot in the first decade of this century. How do you sum up the past ten years for you and for China?
Han Han: It¡¦s like if you gave a person something as simple as a cup as a gift ten years ago to represent a lifetime, because the word for ¡§cup¡¨ sounds like the word for ¡§lifetime¡¨. Today you certainly wouldn¡¦t want to give a ¡§water container¡¨ as a gift because is a pun on the word ¡§tragedy¡¨ that became popular in the last year or two. You see, time only changes the times but there¡¦s a lot of stuff that just doesn¡¦t change. It¡¦s the same with me. I don¡¦t think I¡¦ve gone through any dramatic changes over the last ten years. And I think it¡¦s the same with the country. There¡¦s lots of things that haven¡¦t really changed. It¡¦s just that all the things that existed before have simply expanded. It¡¦s being pushed along by the age, but the age often can¡¦t push it because it¡¦s just too heavy. It¡¦s like taking two steps forward, one step back.
SW: In March of 2006 you had an online debate with Bai Hua, Lu Chuan and Gao Xiaosong. It was very entertaining way to express yourselves. Everyone really enjoyed it. Do you think you would do that kind of thing again today?
Han Han: This isn¡¦t something that I control at all. What you¡¦re really asking is if I¡¦m going to seriously talk about literature, but what comes out is far from it. It¡¦s because the people who jump into the conversation take it in a completely different direction. As an amateur I don¡¦t have a problem with this. Also, the ideas I expressed before are probably not all that interesting. Not only were they uninteresting, they were not incisive either. Actually, I think it¡¦s better if people just have a good time rather than have more people come look at your blog. As for the bad language, sometimes I just can¡¦t help it. I use that language even more when I race cars. Almost every driver will curse when he hits another car. But my foul language is used to express a state of mind and is directed at that state of mind. It¡¦s not aimed at a person. There are no personal attacks. It¡¦s just expressing my thoughts at the moment. What¡¦s more important I think is to make yourself happy, which is the most important thing. The motivation for everything is interest. Everyone probably has a different understanding of the scope of the things that are important.
SW: Let¡¦s talk about what the public hopes for. Some say they want you to become a mayor. Some say it would be great if there were a million Han Han¡¦s. This shows your importance and it also shows society¡¦s desire for a voice that is influential and penetrating. How do you view these desires?
Han Han: I think that if one day there¡¦s no one who cares about me it would make the world a much better place.
SW: You are very good at reasoning in your writing. What is most important to you when it comes to reasoning?
Han Han: I think the most important thing is not to use allusions. I used to like to tell stories, like once something happened to some person or something happened in such and such a country, but I¡¦ve since found that when allusion is completely unnecessary for reasoning, this is when it is at its strongest.
SW: Your prose can be very critical but it has very little ideological tone to it. You yourself once said, ¡§I¡¦m someone who separates fact from fiction but has no particular stance.¡¨ So, what¡¦s your purpose in writing all these articles? Do you feel that changing the system is a long and difficult process so it¡¦s better to try to improve public life a bit from a more practical standpoint?
Han Han: Everything comes from the desire to help through writing when things are unfair. When I was little I wanted to be a reporter because I thought they could take all the unfair things in this world and uncover them. Later I found out that newspapers do not belong to reporters. Editors decide their fate, as well as editors in chief and even all other kinds of editing. There are actually a lot of people like me who write. It¡¦s just that I was a best selling author before so I have more readers, but there¡¦s lots of people who do this. I¡¦m just one book among thousands of others. And as for institutional change, all I need is about 300 words to write this clearly. Any more would be repetitious. It¡¦s really simple. Whatever is suitable for humans is suitable for the world, unless you¡¦re not human. It¡¦s a bit over the top to if you talk about improving public life from a practical standpoint. When I see some practical things, I¡¦m really just a lazy guy who can¡¦t stand to be filled with the desire to create. You¡¦d say these things are just a bunch of bull.
SW: Your blog can be considered a very influential media source. What is the idea behind this medium?
Han Han: The idea behind this medium is to read for free, but it won¡¦t necessarily be published each week.
SW: Intellectuals today are more and more inclined to recognize and support you even though you were seen as a anti-intellectual vanguard before. Is there a contradiction in this?
Han Han: Can I ask what ¡§anti-intellectual vanguard¡¨ means? I just figured out this year what the difference is between left and right wing. I think I want to strive to be at the vanguard of propagation.
SW: What do you dislike the most, whether it¡¦s private or public?
Han Han: I most dislike those people who are called great at math but are idiots when it comes to logic. The Internet has been around for many years and a lot of smart people have appeared but it can never dilute the concentration of stupidity in this world.
Actually, what I hate the most is failure.
SW: What do you want most in the end? A vibrant life? A legendary life? Something else?
Han Han: I want a harmonious life.
(Shanghai Daily) Popular rebel without a cause shuns the 'right way February 7, 2010.
WHEN racing driver Han Han flipped the bird at judges after receiving a penalty during the China Touring Car Championship last June, many asked if he had taken his tendency for controversy a step too far.
But he followed up on his blog, lambasting the Federation of Automobile Sports as "unprofessional" in enforcing rules and criticizing it for failing to impose penalties for prohibited pre-rally road surveys.
Asked whether he considered the influence of his obscene gesture on society, Han responded with typical sarcasm: "The only group that might be affected is the children, but I believe that with the protection of 'Green Dam' (filtering software designed to block violence and pornographic content on the Internet), they won't be hurt."
It was the sort of hard-hitting criticism that has made the 27-year-old the most popular blogger in China - and seen him hailed as the voice of his generation.
Han's blog is known for attacking the establishment, and his opinions often make headlines.
His thoughts on the fire that destroyed a new tower block owned by state broadcaster China Central Television last February were copied and passed on thousands of times soon after they were posted on the Internet.
In the post, he voiced the frustrations of his generation: "The government needs to think about a serious issue: its mouthpieces have damaged the image of their master, when they operate under the current mechanism," he said.
"Even a truthful story could appear fake when reported by them. The younger generation has been maturing and they will ridicule what these state-owned media agencies produce more and more ... No wonder they (the media) are being left behind by the times."
He also pointed to the reasons for his own popularity: "This is an era in which you can not convince people unless you have virtue."
In late May 2008, when American actress Sharon Stone triggered outrage in China by saying the Sichuan earthquake was "interesting" and "karma," Han argued that Stone's original meaning was distorted by the media.
He put the full quote and direct translation in his blog, saying Stone was telling the reporter the process of her thoughts, but the media had quoted her out of context.
Three days later, he posted a 3,000-word article "Don't show the fury of the whole nation," advising the public to ease their nationalist ardor.
"A sentence of a passe foreign star who was misquoted by the media made us show our savage side," he wrote, referring to postings calling for her to be "killed" or otherwise harmed.
"If we think about what we've said after natural disasters in other countries, we will find we are far from real humanitarians. If you still don't reflect on the past, you are not as good as Stone. She at least knew to reflect on herself," read the post.
He also said the Chinese should be focusing on more important matters, such as the schools that collapsed in the quake.
For this he was branded an "idiot," "cold-blooded" and "unpatriotic" on Chinese Websites.
In fact, he had gone to Sichuan right after the quake to distribute relief materials donated by himself and his friends, but he cautiously avoided the cameras so as not to be branded a "show-off" too.
However, Lu Jinbo, Han's publisher, and Liang Wendao, a commentator with Hong Kong-based Phoenix TV, agree that Han could be the next Lu Xun, arguably the most famous modern Chinese writer, who was acclaimed for his vehemently critical essays.
Han's debut novel, "Triple Gate," published in 2000, is about a high school student's campus life. In it, he attacks the education system by comparing the teachers who do home-schooling with prostitutes: "Teachers are not popular, but home-schooling is. From that, we can see that teaching is like dating. One to many is cheap, but one to one is precious - almost the same price per hour as a prostitute. However, a teacher is much more competent than a prostitute. The prostitute makes money by giving joy to the other, while a teacher achieves it through giving agony."
This provocative criticism has sent at least five of his books into the best-seller lists.
One reader of "Triple Gate" wrote to say, "Han Han you're great! You've just said what I want to say."
"Then why didn't you say it?" he responded.
Guangzhou-based New Weekly magazine said in late 2008 that Han lived up to the duties and responsibilities of a public intellectual. "His rational thinking makes us hopeful for the 1980s generation," it said, referring to the generation of mostly single children, who are famously considered self-centered and lacking social responsibility.
However, Han rejects the position, saying he just enjoys speaking out.
He even kind of enjoys the fact that many don't share his views. "When I just started in car-racing, I thought the slow drivers were foolish, but later I changed my mind - without them, how could I stand out?"
He has followed his own passions, taking up motor-racing to the confusion of many who believed he had a promising future in writing.
They claimed he just wanted to show off his wealth, or just wanted some excitement like many young men with excessive testosterone.
At first, Han spent his own money on training and buying cars. Then he was contracted to a professional team. And then he astonished the public by winning the 2007 China Circuit Championship.
"My success comes from my judgement, which is my gift. Some people will never know what they are really capable of. They just waste their lives in something that they are not good at," he said.
Growing up in a small township in the suburbs of Shanghai, Han had a carefree childhood. His mother and father, unlike many Chinese parents who push their children to succeed, were relaxed about his schoolwork and studies.
He found a passion for reading when he started to learn Chinese characters, hiding under the bedclothes to read at night.
His independent streak was obvious at an early age when he resisted his parents' attempts to control what they saw as bad habits or behavior, even on minor issues like keeping his desk tidy.
"They used to try to change me, but never succeeded. Then they started to know I always try my best to get what I want. Now they support every decision I make."
He won't own up to any influences in his determination to live his own life.
His academic progress foundered in 1999, when he failed seven subjects, including Chinese, at high school. He spent another year trying to catch up, but he eventually decided to quit.
However, before that, he won the first "New Concept" national essay contest, which encourages students to write innovatively, and he finished the manuscript for "Triple Gate" during class.
He told his teachers he'd live on the royalties, and they all laughed at his "naivety." But one month later, "Triple Gate" became a best-seller, and has since sold a million copies, making him a millionaire.
He believes "success is the mother of success," fueling his self-confidence.
Now he also makes money as a professional racing driver, and through advertising on his blogs.
In order to encourage Chinese writers, he is promising to pay an above-average rate of 2,000 yuan per 1,000 Chinese characters in a new magazine for which he will be the editor.
He has been thinking about giving up racing and writing for some time.
"But I still have some goals that haven't been achieved and some 'enemies' I have to beat," he said.
His ideal life would be "staying in the right place with the right person."
"Every morning when we wake up, we have nothing to do, and don't need to do anything," he said.
He admits to several relationships since he was 16, but he is only just considering marriage.
"I don't want to be restricted by anything," Han said, "but I believe that there is a stronger power. When it appears, it will make me be willing to take the responsibility."
A reporter from China Pictorial magazine once characterized his anti-establishment and individualistic nature as "Westernized" and asked: "How did you become like this?"
"I don't think things can be called 'Easternized' or 'Westernized.' There is only one standard - whether it's suitable for human beings," he answered.
Ma Yimu, editor of men's fashion magazine, Esquire, said, "Han Han is just a normal young man. He normally likes pretty women and normally says 'no' to the things he thinks wrong. If there were more Han Hans in China, the country would be more normal."
Han Han expresses the view in a song with his own lyrics, in his only album, when he sings, "Happiness is being happy in different ways."