I came across a comment the other day on X asking why a well-known Chinese-American Bloomberg commentator is so often wrong about China despite knowing China so well. In this case it was in regards to an article written by Dr. Minxin Pei suggesting that the "financial meltdown" China is supposedly experiencing from trying to break its debt addiction will be "fatal" to the country. It got me thinking about the role diaspora play in the narratives about their former homes.

There's a long history of Chinese diaspora in the West predicting the imminent demise of their homeland. They write entire books on the subject...like the infamous the Coming Collapse of China doomsday predictor Gordon Chang who in 2001 predicted the Chinese Communist Party would cause to the country to collapse by 2011. He was of course entirely wrong.

Diaspora are people who identify with one place but chose to live somewhere else. Moving far from home isn't something one does lightly. Usually there is some sort of underlying unhappiness with the conditions at home. This can be unhappiness with the economic or political conditions or something else.

The high cost they went through to right this perceived unhappiness makes diaspora high susceptible to confirmation bias. Every negative news item out of their homeland means that their decision to leave it behind was right and that it is closer to the inevitable collapse that will vindicate their decision

Because so many have bone to pick with their former homeland, some of them find themselves spending their lives focusing on this decision through their careers or professions. Their interest and passion about the subject matter combined with language and cultural skills that give them better access makes them natural choices for academics studying, journalists writing about or pundits pontificating about their old homes.

Combine this diaspora confirmation bias phenomenon with the fact that diaspora often end up in places that have adversarial relationships with their homes and you can quickly see why so many of them rise quickly in the ranks. Who more credible to tell us how bad our enemy is than someone who "escaped" from the enemy?

We're seeing a similar phenomenon from the latest generation of Hong Kong diaspora...people who see themselves as political refugees from Hong Kong over the past few years who have moved to the West. They're unhappy with the current China and Hong Kong SAR government and want nothing more than to believe that the system they left behind is failing. So we get a continuous stream of former Hong Kongers living in cold and dreary places like the UK, telling us that Hong Kong is over. Well I'm still here in Hong Kong and looking out my window, it doesn't seem over to me. But tell yourself whatever makes you feel better

I, myself, am of course not immune to this phenomenon. As a former US citizen, I find myself part of the American diaspora. I sometimes find myself citing negative news out the US as a way to justify my own decision to leave. I also have my own bones to pick. Spending my life "picking bones"...trying to win imaginary disagreements that are impossible to resolve...isn't really what I to spend my time doing.