“So is the public image of China really that bad in Germany?”, a chinese friend asked me today. Well, yes. Judging from the pre-olympic Tibet craze and the recent hysterical reaction to a mild fit of patriotism from a chinese Deutsche Welle journalist, one might definitely get this impression. But german public opinion can be as volatile as its chinese counterpart, where you see people shopping at Carrefour one day, throwing stones at the french supermarket the second day, and continue shopping there on the third, as an expat blog has recently put it. And with a decent display of mass choreography as shown at the Olympic opening and closing ceremonies you can easily win quite some german hearts.
When Germans declare themselves experts on human rights issues a healthy dose of skepticism is always in place. Having been the declared the super-villain of world history during a significant part of the 20th century, there might be an all too obvious readiness on our side to hand this role to some other power in the 21st. I remember a german politician telling a surprised international audience that “we have a special responsibility on human rights issues after all we went through in recent history”. Yeah, right.
This is not to say that human rights in China are not an important issue. But, as I have said before, it shouldn’t result in a game of immediate finger-pointing, but be a matter of cautious research and the better arguments. Let’s put things in proper perspective, and maybe, from time to time, exercise some careful epoché, like has been taught as good philosophical method by one of our most eminent thinkers.