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Monday, August 3, 2009

Does Crisis Really Mean Opportunity? (For Someone Other Than Global Elitists)





(Above) The Chinese characters for (supposedly) Crisis + Opportunity


When I lived in Tokyo in the 90's, the only cable program in English I could get was CNN. The only other English media was the Far East Network or FEN, the US military radio station. If you tuned your radio a hair to the left or right (I forget) of FEN, you'd pick up Russian broadcasts out of nearby Vladivostok.

Even though nearly all cable was in Japanese, I finally relented and got it. I was tired of trying to interpret shows like NHK news, "Fun Takeshi Jo" and "Waku Waku Animal Land". And I wanted to watch something in English besides video rentals.

The CNN Beijing correspondent at the time was a guy named Mike Chinoy. There was a promo with him on several times a day, where he would talk about the Chinese and their supposed wisdom of creating a written character that combined the meaning of "crisis" with "opportunity".

That was the first time I'd heard of it.

Chinoy's been in Beijing for years. He speaks fluent Mandarin. Must be true!

Like some sort of virus, this "wisdom of China" ended up spreading over the globe. It even got some play on "The Simpsons" - as Homer put it: "Crisatunity".

One Sinologist states:

"A whole industry of pundits and therapists has grown up around this one grossly inaccurate formulation. A casual search of the Web turns up more than a million references to this spurious proverb. It appears, often complete with Chinese characters, on the covers of books, on advertisements for seminars, on expensive courses for "thinking outside of the box," and practically everywhere one turns in the world of quick-buck business, pop psychology, and orientalist hocus-pocus. This catchy expression (Crisis = Danger + Opportunity) has rapidly become nearly as ubiquitous as The Tao of Pooh and Sun Zi's Art of War for the Board / Bed / Bath / Whichever Room... In a crisis, one wants above all to save one's skin and neck! Any would-be guru who advocates opportunism in the face of crisis should be run out of town on a rail, for his / her advice will only compound the danger of the crisis."

Apparently there is no such thing as a Chinese character that embodies these two nouns. You can read about it here: http://www.pinyin.info/chinese/crisis.html

However, there is such a thing as the Hegelian Dialectic and other "order out of chaos" approaches to world domination.

Have we been programmed to favorably accept crisis as "opportunity"?

Footnotes:

Chinoy states:

''James Lilley, the US ambassador during the (Tiananmen) crackdown, told me that CNN was often well ahead of the embassy's political officers in reporting major developments, so much so that policy decisions in Washington tended to be driven more by what appeared on CNN than by the analyses of the US diplomats on the scene," writes Chinoy in the advanced reader's copy of his book. ''Hearing this confirmed my sense that CNN had suddenly become a player on the global stage.
''It became clear to me that by broadcasting live from the heart of the revolution, we had affected the dynamics and momentum of the very events we were covering."
Mike Chinoy is now part of the Pacific Council on International Policy and "Edgerton Fellow on Korean Security"http://www.pacificcouncil.org/index.aspx

And here's a couple of blog entries:

The strange relationship between Mike Chinoy, the KMT, and China. He's their lapdog, plain as day. http://indiac.blogspot.com/2004/12/strange-relationship-between-mike.html

Mike Chinoy distorts Taiwan's democracy http://taiwanmatters.blogspot.com/2006/11/mike-chinoy-distorts-taiwans-democracy.html


Chinoy appears to be a Jewish surname

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