Or, what might be perceived as a off-color or at least
unpopular opinion of the Chinese-language press in the
Whilst doing research for another
writeup I realized that I had a dilemma on my hands. I was going to use a
source, The World Journal, a Chinese-language newspaper (the most
popular in the United States). However, I'd have to have the appropriate
articles translated. Now, translating from the Chinese to English is tricky
at best. From syntax to idiom, the differences couldn't be more extreme.
Therefore, one individual's translation of even a simple news article written in
Chinese would vary slightly from another's. Absent having at my fingertips the
resources, let's say, of the United Nations bureau of translation, I couldn't
decide what to do. So I wrote this instead.
A Day Late and A Dollar Short
What irritates me the most about The World Journal
and Sing Tao, the "big two" of the five Chinese newspapers in print in
the United States, is the fact that a lot of their news is apparently copied
from the English-language papers of the day before. Of course, they do have
reporting staffs, but they place incredible burdens on these poor individuals:
So zealous is the rivalry among the dailies for news (and so tight
their budgets) that each reporter has a quota of 2,000 words, or, more
precisely, 2,000 characters, to write each day, often in two or three
stories. The China Press also requires its reporters to shoot three
usable photos a day.
"The quality is not so good, but it cuts down the cost," explained
I-Der Jeng, its editor.
— Joseph Berger in The New York Times
Hearsay (garnered from Chinese friends and acquaintances whom I trust) leads
me to believe that what appears in The New York Post, The Daily News,
and even the "Grey Lady," The New York Times, is translated, usually with
a little bit of a pro-Chinese twist, and printed the next day in the
Chinese-language papers in this country. At first, I couldn't believe this. But
as time passed, bit after bit of complete and utter misinformation began to
filter down to me, typically in support of a point being made by one of my
friends or employees. My irritation with this became more and more intense until
I decided to find out just what indeed was up.
One of the hugest recent hoaxes I came across was the plight of a Chinese
restaurant owner who came to me for advice. Now, this poor man has in his employ
two or three illegal aliens. He told me that his accountant
had told him to take these individuals (all in possession of Social Security
numbers) off of his reported payroll. I informed this restaurateur that
he better not; that the United States takes the payment of taxes very seriously,
and then went into the whole story of how the F.B.I. couldn't catch Al
Capone, but that he was in fact brought down for failure to pay taxes on the
proceeds of his illegal activities.
My friend looked at me with a sad face. He said "I.R.S. has big, big computer. So does Immigration Service. My
accountant says I.R.S. computer talk to Immigration Computer and they find
no-green-card-people. Then they get deported."
Amazed that a professional financial advisor would subscribe to such
hearsay, I explained that, yes, in some individual states one must show
proof of U.S. citizenship in order to obtain a driver's license. However, so far
as I know, there is no box to check off nor question to answer on any Form 1040
(individual tax return) nor any other tax form which asks "are you or are you
not a citizen of the United States of America?" (except, of course, for foreign
nationals who volunteer their status in the event they owe Uncle Sam a few
bucks). Further, to check the millions upon millions of tax returns against the
computer files at what is now the Department of Homeland Security would be a
pretty expensive, time-consuming matter. And the government has admitted that in
the "war against terrorism," computer cross-checking is a pretty futile task
(except in the case of checking the NCIC criminal database against the file of
individuals with a Deportation Order outstanding).
Of course, I told my friend that yes, he should continue to report the
earnings of these workers (but get them the help of an Immigration Attorney,
fast) and he, too, should continue to pay the withholding taxes for these
workers. For woe betide the businessman who'd put his fortune on the line when
dealing with ostensibly the largest government agency there is (I think - unless
Bush has signed-up more soldiers than I.R.S. drones). Essentially I told him to
keep his nose clean because an audit by the I.R.S. could potentially expose him
to investigation by other government agencies more surely than anything else
(unless he was running an illegal gambling parlor in the back of the
restaurant). His face grew ashen when I said that last part to him; it turns out
the staff had been playing Mah Jongg for nickels during the lull in-between
lunch and dinner. And where? You got it - the back of the restaurant. It took me
another half-hour to convince him that that was alright.
The Accountant's Sources
I finally got hold of my friend's Accountant. First, I asked him how many
parts there are to the New York State C.P.A. exam.
He answered correctly, four. Then I asked him where he'd gotten the idea that
advising his client not to pay taxes was a good idea. He responded
matter-of-factly that he'd read this advice in the Chinese newspaper. Astounded
isn't quite the word that describes my state of mind at that point.
One Bad Source, On Another
Among the results of a Google search of '"World Journal" +newspaper' was Wikipedia's entry about said newspaper. With all due respect
to those who do use Wiki as a source, I, for one, do not. I've discovered
piles of misinformation and uncheckable "factoids" in Wikipedia - some about
people I know or knew - so the whole thing leaves a bad taste in my mouth. It
certainly does have its uses, but as a source for serious journalism I'd hazard
a guess that their entries would best be considered a "starting-off point."
Now, it was initially the hearsay contained in the World Journal, as
related to me by one of my employees, that caused me to investigate my last
writeup for E2. This person told me that the Chinese-language paper said that
the subject of my writeup had paid "fines" in the amount of "millions of
dollars" as the result of "being arrested and sued for mistreating his
The fact of the matter is that the litigation is still in the civil stages;
the State's Attorney nor the regulatory agency involved have yet filed charges.
Nor has there been published any news of a settlement (and if the litigation
stays in the civil courts, and the settlement is to the satisfaction of both
State's Attorney and regulatory agency, the settlement amount may never be
Consulting the English-Language Pages of the World Journal Online
So to continue on my investigation into the "millions of dollars" in fines
described, I consulted the English-language version of the World Journal
online. The website was filled with interesting stories about Chinese
individuals who had won awards for community activism, crime rates in Chinese
neighborhoods, stories of the "horrendous plight of workers who don't have
Green Cards and the fines and jail time imposed on their employers.
But nothing about the subject I was researching: worker complaints leading
to worker organization against employers, and potential Union organization.
On January 10, 2007, a jury found the World Journal guilty of
failing to give employees breaks, lunches, and overtime, and awarded the
plaintiffs $2.5 million. The plaintiffs alleged that they worked over
twelve hours per day, failed to provide adequate pay statements to
workers, and interfered with unionization attempts. In 2001, the
employees voted to join the Communication Workers of America, but the
National Labor Relations Board vacated the union vote after finding that
the election was tainted.
Ah, so! The newspaper responsible for, among other things, championing the
fight against exploitation of Chinatown Garment Workers was guilty
of exploiting its own employees! Did they come clean about this? None of the
Chinese people I asked (surely an unscientific methodology, I admit) seemed to
know, and furthermore didn't recall that they'd written anything about having
trouble with their staff.
Early on in the history of The World Journal, in particular, the
Chinese-language newspapers in this country were very pro-Taiwan. As recently
as 2003 they made a huge to-do over the death of Madame Chiang
Kai-Shek. Many discussed the pros and cons of Falun Gong at length. They were
quick to criticize the political goings-on in Beijing.
However, as the demographics of their readership changed, so did their
reporting. Several of my sources argued that the Journal, in particular,
has waffled over the years, pro- and con-Mainland China's politics and policies.
Logic would lead one to believe that they'd alienate their readers with
pro-Communist China propaganda. However, it turns out that the bulk of their
readership are immigrants who have family back home, to whom they send U.S.
dollars. So it actually alienates their current readership when they take a
pro-Taiwan stance. There are other reasons, based in cultural differences and
the mainlanders' envy of the success of their Taiwanese neighbors at
international business. So they tell the readership what the readership wants to
Money Makes The World Go 'Round
My last example of the pure ridiculousness of it all is about journalistic
integrity. Culturally, the Chinese people tend to embrace natural medicine.
They believe that chemicals created in a laboratory will cause dependency
(whether it's Valium or plain old antibiotics - even aspirin). It was my
impression that this cultural bugaboo would be a hard one to break, given that
the natural food stores in Chinatown are many, and their shelves veritably
bursting with one herbal remedy or another. Well, not too long ago, our family
doctor told my wife that her triglyceride level was a bit high, so he
prescribed a Statin drug to rapidly reduce the level of artery-clogging gunk
that was coursing through her veins. She wouldn't take it, until a customer
(who's also a friend) asked her to share a dish of twice-cooked pork belly (a
big cholesterol no-no). When my wife told the story of the triglycerides,
our friend said, "Oh, there's this new pill on the market, and the newspaper
says if you take it you can eat anything you want!"
Sure enough, when I leafed through the latest copy of the paper that was
sitting on the counter back in the kitchen, it took me a mere half-minute to
find a whole-page, no-doubt costly, three-color ad for Lipitor. Well, I guess
they know which side of the bread the butter's on.
A Day Without Immigrants — Chinese Restaurant House — Chinese Restaurant Syndrome — Chinese Restaurant — Chinese Restaurant Workers Revolt!
"Newspaper War, Waged a Character at a Time", by Joseph Berger, The New
York Times, November 10, 2003. Reprinted on the R.K. Chin Web Gallery:
http://www.nychinatown.org/articles/nytimes031110.html (Accessed 4/9/07)
"Chinese Media Denied Access to Clinton Fundraiser" by Eugenia Chien, New
American Media Collaboration of Ethnic News Organizations website, February
"World Journal in Partnership with the Chinese Community" by Sandip Roy and
Pueng Vongs, New American Media August 13, 2003:
"The World Journal" NYJPW Chinese-American Arts and Culture Association
http://www.nyjpw.org/ev033198.htm (Accessed 4/9/07)
"The Complete Reference to China/Chinese Newspapers, News Services and News
Portal Sites" edited by Weiqing Huang, ChinaSite.com:
http://www.chinasite.com/Media/Newspaper.html (Accessed 4/9/07)
"Newspaper War in the Bay Area" by Vanessa Hua, The San Francisco
Chronicle, August 3, 2004
80-20 Initiative Blog, December 19, 2005:
The most simple explanation about how screwed-up government information sharing is: http://www.totse.com/en/law/justice_for_all/167465.html (Accessed 4/9/07)
and yes, one more thing: "World Journal," Wikipedia Entry
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_Journal (Accessed 4/9/07)