Annie Wang at PostGlobal

Annie Wang

Shanghai, China

Annie Wang is a journalist, public speaker, and author who specializes women’s issue. She has published eight Chinese books and two English novels. Her English debut, Lili - A Novel of Tiananmen, (June 2001 Pantheon Books) published internationally to critical acclaims. A multi-layered novel, Lili, is a story of a "bad girl's" maturation and adventure in the Post-Mao Era leading up the Tiananmen Student Movement in 1989. Her most recent English novel, The People’s Republic of Desire (Harper Collins 2006) is a hilarious satire and an insightful portrait of China’s MTV generation, urban women, and cross-cultural relationships. It has been hailed as a cross between Sex and the City and Joy Luck Club. A child prodigy in her native China, Annie Wang studied mass communications at UC Berkeley and won the Berkeley Poetry Contest in 1996 with two poems, "Speaking to Mao Tse-tung, Tongue-in-cheek" and "A Woman from a Mountain Area". She has worked for high-tech companies in Silicon Valley, and then served in the Washington Post's Beijing bureau and the US State Department. In 2004, she returned to China and ran a fashion magazine in Shanghai. Currently, she lives with her husband and son and divides time between the U.S. and China. Close.

Annie Wang

Shanghai, China

Annie Wang is a journalist, public speaker, and author who specializes women’s issue. She has published eight Chinese books and two English novels. more »

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Youth Dream of Being Journalists, Not Judges

I remember when I worked for the U.S. State Department to receive visitors from China, there was always confusion on the Chinese side. They don't understand why the U.S. government includes legislative and judicial branches. For them, the word government (or Zhengfu in Chinese) is equal to the word "administration." And in their view, naturally a mayor holds the higher position and supervises a judge. The Chinese were shocked to see that in some American cities, the city hall is modest and small, with few steps and columns. Americans, for their part, were often equally shocked to see a twenty-something Chinese woman with no college degree being a municipal judge.

It is no news to this audience that in China, political interference is part of a still relatively backward judicial system. Judges don't make much money, nor are they required to hold higher educational degrees. If you ask college students in China nowadays, they'll say they admire Bill Gates, corporate CEOs, entertainment stars like Brad Pitt, athletes like Michael Jordan. Do they want to become judges? Probably nine out of ten would say NO. Not only because serving as a judge is so unglamorous, it has also become associated with corruption. Common people (or laobaixing) often feel both fear and resentment toward those who work in the police department and the courts.

When people have so much distrust in the judicial system, the media becomes an alternative for justice. Petitioners travel from their rural homes to Beijing to visit such institutions as the People's Daily and China Central Television with their written complaints. Many Chinese state-run media have an office dedicated to receiving petitioners. There have been cases of desperate petitioners burning themselves in front of media organizations to get attention. What Chinese media have the power to do is more than just public exposure and criticism. In a system called "internal reference," Chinese journalists can write reports that are sent directly to the Central Government to call state leaders’ attention. Their opinions can be imposed on the provincial, municipal and local governments. So for the poor and the disadvantaged who can't seek justice through their local courts, going to Beijing and asking the media for help is a viable alternative. Often, this has proven quite effective.

In recent years, I have noticed that media reform occurs much faster than reform in the judicial system. I turn on Chinese TV and am amazed at the coverage of governmental malpractice and police brutality. Again, when you ask college students what they want to become, they want to be journalists more than they want to be judges. It is also interesting that journalism students receive law degrees, the same degree that students receive from law school.

Foreign investors often frown upon China's rule by law, and the government is very aware of it. Many good laws have been introduced, but it seems there is still a long way to go to execute these laws.

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