We make no apologies for professing our love of Han Han: there’s something about unbridled angst and resistance to the status quo that really gets us going. Needless to say, that view isn’t shared by everyone on the mainland, and we often find Han Han at the center of some controversy, which only makes us more intrigued by him. The most recent blow comes from China Daily’s Raymond Zhou, knocking the “rebel without a cause” for his poor interview in Time magazine.
Aside from the fact that the letter addressed to Han Han basically insults him for giving Time a bad interview in an attempt to further his career, Zhou implies that the young writer fell into a trap emblematic of a deeper problem: the western media’s imperialist ideological agenda towards China. EastSouthWestNorth has a distilled version of the argument from blogger Hecaitou (via Danwei):
Mr. Raymond Zou(sic) 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.
From another perspective, ChinaYouRen (also via Danwei) similarly denounces China Daily’s rant but ultimately concludes that the poor Time article is merely emblematic of China’s lack of understanding of the western media. While we can’t disagree with that claim, we do think that it’s arguing around the point: even from the comments left on the post, you can see that people want Han Han to be intimately concerned with the way the west (or English speaking media, China Daily included) sees and portrays him.
We think that Han Han isn’t baited that easily: he seems to do what he wants to do, and that tends to confuse people, especially the people who want to push him into one ideological camp or another. When it comes down to it, he has a frustratingly well developed ability to evade definition, and it drives people crazy. But does Han Han have an agenda?
Can anyone know for sure? Han Han likes to speak his mind in analogies, which gives him the ability to voice his ideas without directly advocating them. It’s this type of anonymity that he channels in his work, as if he’s broadcasting zeitgeist rather than coming up with it himself.
We admit that China Daily has some points regarding the western media’s biases in reportage: people in the west want symbols of change in China, tangible manifestations of increasing opening and liberalization among China’s youth, the causes of democracy and human rights to flow directly from the mouths of the post-80’s generation. In light of that, it seems that all of the uproar constantly surrounding Han Han is an ad-hominem byproduct of his celebrity status, which rarely addresses his actual work. But in response, Hecaitou has a great defense of Han Han’s blogging:
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?
Han Han is as outrageous as he is outraged: he has a way of moving from one issue to the next, galvanizing them for his audience, and then moving on. Is it necessarily bad if he’s not intimately concerned with the way he’s portrayed? does it affect his work? Besides, the mystery of his character is what’s most appealing about Han Han (and the post 80’s generation), and we’d vote to keep it that way.