an interview with Tai De
Tai De is a civil servant from Verden, Lower Saxony, in the vicinity of Bremen. He started blogging in 2008, and his posts are usually reactions to national, international or local news. He’s interested in everything along the Silk Road, in history, natural science, and horse breeding. His wife is partly Chinese, and courtship and the marriage ceremony, a long time ago, were complicated but instructive.
His blog can be found here.
The interview –
Q: You have been blogging for more than three years. How did it start?
I started with my home town, Verden, because I felt that besides the established political parties’ and the local press – well-connected with those parties -, there was little discussion of other local perspectives. So, based on personal experience, and on my interest in local affairs, it was broadly about Verden, and you’ll still find many Verden-related posts on my blog.
Q: Aren’t the Free Democrats filling that gap efficiently enough? Those things that may not be covered by the Social Democrats and the press?
What can I say…
Q: Your topics are about everything along the silk road. Isn’t that topical setting too broad to develop a genuine focus, and to get a constant readership?
I agree. This diversity hampers development of a continuous readership, but I blog about whatever interests me. If other people feel interested in certain articles nevertheless, I’m always pleased about that, of course.
Anyway, you can probably guess from the number of posts that blogging isn’t the most important part of my spare time.
Q: Let’s suppose that Tai De gets tons of comments and controversial threads, all of a sudden… would that bother you, as it takes time to reply to comments or to moderate?
Not if the commenters are patient.
Q: China doesn’t play a major role on your blog, but Chinese topics do emerge once in a while. Which kinds of “Chinese” topics are most likely to make you react strongly enough to write a blog post about it?
It’s not so much because the topics would be Chinese, but it’s because of the way Germany and the western world deal with this latest challenge from a power which isn’t too calculable in my view. Right when that poor blighter, Francis Fukuyama, had announced the end of history, after the end of the Soviet threat, another challenge emerged.
Q: Chinese officials, citizens, and Germans who feel close to China would probably disagree with you. China doesn’t challenge us – it feels challenged by us.
OK. That’s a normal and understandable perception, and I believe that as a German, I know this perception well. After all, Germany kept bothering its neighbors with a similarly wrong-headed world outlook, during the 20th century.
Q: Have you seen big changes in your own blog, and in the foreign blogosphere respectively, since you started blogging yourself? Have you seen changes in the mainstream media?
I have to admit that I’m still more into printed newspapers than into the blogosphere. I can therefore only base my answer on what I’ve read in the printed press. As far as that’s concerned, the China-jaggedness of the 1990s and the first decade of this century have been replaced by – in my view – partly racist coverage, and by fear.
Q: Before someone else asks this question – isn’t MyLaowai racist, for example? You’ve commented there occasionally.
No, I don’t think he’s racist. Some of his commenters are, though, and that’s why I don’t comment there more frequently. Even online, I mind the company I’m hanging out with, especially when faked “Chinese” commenters emerge there and speak bad English. But I like reading MyLaowai. Compared with appeasement blogs – like Doppelpod, for example -, MyLaowai has something to say, and he doesn’t need to make a mark at his own country’s costs.
Q: What’s wrong with Doppelpod’s approach – a position between rather contrarian political or (maybe) civilizational positions – in your view? Wouldn’t yours be a rather “Chinese” view of the world? Sort of Shames and honors?
If you have time for a little story… I was at a pretty sterling dinner years ago, on invitation of just as sterling hanseatic pepper sacks. Someone remarked that a professor who had attended previously hadn’t shown up again. One of those merchants told him that the professor in question had made negative remarks about his university in public, that is to say, at such a dinner. He wasn’t welcome any more.
I keep to this kind of policy myself. That’s why you won’t find much – or anything – about my actual field of work on my blog. Work with students is a protected range, and when it comes to educational policies, I mustn’t be too specific there, either. Tangible examples or occasions are out of the question.
Interestingly, most of those merchants probably shared the professor’s criticism, but rejected him as a person. They found him disloyal. I agree with that sentiment, even though I find the merchants outlandish in many other ways.
Q: That’s pretty old school, isn’t it?
It may be old school, it may be a rather Syrian or Turkish perspective, a German pre-war perpective, a Chinese perspective, or a Calabrian concept – that’s up to you. Doppelpod won’t need to worry about that – most decision-makers these days will think of this as “old school” indeed. Therefore, what I feel is disloyalty, isn’t disloyalty to others. It’s no practical issue any more. But adhering to that “old school” isn’t only a matter of decency in my view, but practical for everyone involved. It seems to me that most of us complain about a lack of “binding values”, or a lack of reliability within society. This seems to be a major complaint in China, too. If you feel that something of that kind is missing in your society, you’d better practice such values yourself, as honestly as you can.
Q: Are your teaching colleagues or your students aware that you are blogging? Posts like “Newthink – da future is digital and dumb” wouldn’t suggest that you are using the internet at all.
There may be a few exceptions. Most colleagues definitely don’t know my blog. But there are some students and teachers who think that they’ve recognised me.
Q: Why not blogging under your real name, then?
I’m not blogging for the sake of a career, and I appreciate freedom of speech (which is only available on American servers, by the way). Therefore, I’ll stick to “Tai De”.
Q: Your posts usually discuss Chinese, German, Israeli, Palestinian, Syrian, Thai, and Turkish issues. Are there other countries that interest you, or that play a role in your life, too?
Britan for sure, and Italy – for family reasons, too, and because they have something to do with my life.
Q: If Lower Saxony was a sovereign state, I’d have mentioned it in my previous question, too. You discuss Lower-Saxonian issues, once in a while. Why should the rest of the world care?
Even if we leave the fact aside that Hanoverians are the most classy Brits, and the island monkeys are only the remains of the day, I will usually write about what I can see every day, and about structures I’m familiar with.
Q: Some of your posts suggest that you like to wash Germany’s dirty laundry in public – even worse, you aren’t even washing it, you just keep displaying it. You aren’t a patriot, are you?
Am I patriotic? Am I not? With the events of the past century – its first half, anyway – on your mind, it isn’t easy for a German to have patriotic feelings. There’s that concept of a Verfassungspatriot, a constitutional patriot – that’s what I am for sure. Contrary to France, Spain, and Great Britain – and even when you compare Germany with its old provinces around Amsterdam and Rotterdam -, Germany is a belated nation, just as Italy. The concept of the Reich has become contaminated, too much so to be connoted in a positive way. My country, my people, and its civilization, that’s where I belong.
Q: Tai De, thanks a lot for this interview.
The interview was conducted in an authentic Chinese restaurant in Bremen.