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Another case of plagiarism?


Bayi - one hates to use the P word. Let's just call it a case of unbelievable laziness. I mean, the reporter could've emailed me some questions, gotten responses, and legitimately used those in the article. Huh, I just figured out why she didn't link the blog, or the post....duh.


That really does suck. The only people who've stolen my content so far is a Cambodian government website and after a bit of wrangling, they took it down. And then replaced it with somebody else's stolen content.

If you want a brutally effective way to deal with copyright theft, get them delisted from Google, which would be hugely serious for a publication like Shanghai Daily. Under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, search engines actually are forced to work with you to stop copyright infringement. There's a great article about it at http://lorelle.wordpress.com/2006/04/10/what-do-you-do-when-someone-steals-your-content/
which is extremely accessible.


You might hate to use that word, but that's exactly what it is. Plagiarism. The Chinese are awfully good at it too.

Happens so often in academia (my area of expertise) that some of my professors won't work with Chinese scholars unless they've been vetted.

I'm not surprised at this one bit. I'd follow Phil's advice and get Google to take 'em down.


Am very sorry to hear of this. Such bad practise. Even as a mere reader, I share your annoyance - this blog is of such exceptional quality that it is irksome to think someone else has used your excellent material without acknowledgement. And gotten her facts wrong! Ye gods, insult to injury.


I agree, it sounds like out and out plagiarism to me, too. You have to go on record with them about it -- a letter, or an email, requesting that they print a retraction/correction with a link to the blog sounds right to me.


It happens more often than you'd hope.

Not so long ago, I pitched an article on UXO in Laos to a rather popular and highly acclaimed alternative magazine. An editor replied, expressing his interest in running the story, asking for further details, as well as photos. I sent more information, plus pix for perusal. A few weeks later, we got an email from the photo editor telling us the magazine indeed was running the story but there was no room for a photo. A few weeks after that, we learned it wasn't my story the magazine planned to run. It was the editor's own article, with his own byline, based on numerous quotes from me and several other people. Not only that, he got part of it wrong.
Curious? www.utne.com/issues/2006_136/promo/12156-1.html


Rose, the "Chinese are awfully good at it too". Hmm, no gross generalization then?
Yes, I am offended.

Mark Foo

I say - sue them for copyright infringement, or at least send them a letter threatening to. What a bunch of gits.


Couldn't get any worse, could it?


Phil - sweet! I'm gonna follow up on that. Thanks!

Catherine - I did send a letter to the editor and used the P word, asked for retraction/attribution/apology ... but I really don't expect any response. Think I'll follow up on Phil's suggestion.

Karen - unbelievable, esp given the publication. No one's immune, even a writer as well-established as yourself, it seems.

Rose - I hear you. Then again, I taught a couple of classes at Berkeley and found that many of my American students excelled at plagiarism as well. (Not sure which is worse - the fact that they plagiarized or the fact that the university declined to punish them for it.)

Ben - Let me clarify, for Rose. I am betting that she was referring to some mainland Chinese, not all folks of Chinese ethnicity everywhere. As many foreign companies have found, there is a certain lack of respect for, or perhaps just ignorance of, intellectual property rights there.

I'm willing to entertain the possiblity that this reporter had no idea that what she was doing was plagiarism. She may not even be clear on what plagiarism is. Still, that doesn't excuse it. Or the fact that I haven't heard a peep from the editor I sent my letter to.

Old Blue

To me, plagiarism is mostly an issue of attribution. The writer did not lift your writing part and parcel as her own but put excerpts in quotes and credited you by name.

However, she did fail in the related area of accuracy and integrity. She used dated information that you were based in China and did not credit the blog. If she had wrote "Robyn of eatingasia.typepad.com wrote ...", that is a valid example of fair use. But what she did is not quite plagiarism but she did mislead the reader into thinking that you had been interviewed.

Having taught at Berkeley and other universities and after being presented the lazy and shoddy work of our brightest students, I hope that those to whom you made the serious accusation of plagiarism actually did steal someone else's work. Incompetence and ignorance is one thing; willful dishonesty is another.


Ben (and Robyn for that matter),

I meant mainland Chinese. At times, I forget to write more clearly in my written responses than I do when I speak. Amongst my friends and colleagues, "Chinese" often just refers to mainlanders, not those in HK, Taiwan or elsewhere in the Chinese diaspora. It is colloquial and not meant to be offensive in anyway. Just a personal FYI, I am of Chinese descent and it'd be silly to think I'd offend myself.

Indeed plagiarism is everywhere, alarmingly at some of the best institutions in the US (and a growing rate of incidents, which makes me shudder). My experience over the years has been with Chinese studies/academia and I've seen both blatant plagiarism and ignorance of intellectual property rights by those from the mainland (though that doesn't mean there could be those plagiarizing from other chinese communities--almost surely there are).

Plagiarism IMO is based on intent (you are welcome to ARGUE this point, but this is just my own opinion). If you intentionally lift information from somoeone and NOT credit them...that is plagiarism.

Did this writer in fact "intend" to use the content of Robyn's work and not credit her? Looking it over again, it seems that she may have not intended to "plagiarize". But unless the editor responds to Robyn, I'm not sure we'll ever know.

One of the biggest hurdles mainland China faces is the ability to understand and respect intellectual property rights (in every facet of society). It seems to be a slow process.

Good luck with it Robyn and look forward to future posts


Old Blue - thanks for your comment. These words from page 1 of her article (I didn't see page 2, because non-subscribers can't access it) are lifted directly from my post and not attributed to me:

'a cheesy smell and a dense, creamy texture'

'a nose-pinching pungency and a smooth texture'

Not earth-shattering certainly. I don't exactly engage in hard-hitting journalism here on EatingAsia. I suspect - sort of - she wasn't aware of what she was doing. Nonetheless, lifting is lifting and I'd expect some response from her editor. Which, of course, I haven't received. And I don't expect to.

As for my students, a portion of the prof's first lecture was devoted to plagiarism - what it is and how it is dealt with. I don't think there's a univ student in the US who isn't familiar with the concept. But let's face it, the practice is woefully rife.

Rose - thanks for clarifying. I think the non-response from SHA Daily to my very clear email kind of says it all. If I do get a response in coming days I'll eat my words.

Wandering Chopsticks


It certainly is plagiarism, as well as inaccurate and shoddy journalism. She could have very well gone to any restaurant that specialized in fermented tofu and asked customers what they liked about it, and included it in her article. Instead, she used your exact words and phrases. She misrepresented you as an expat in China. She wrote it as if she personally interviewed you. All of that would have gotten her fired from an American newspaper.

Remember that incident many years back when a Chinese reporter (I think for the Beijing paper?) used the Onion's piece on a removable lid-like Capitol dome? He couldn't differentiate that the Onion was a spoof paper, and didn't do any reporting to see if it was accurate. I'm not saying the Chinese alone are the only plagiarists/shoddy journalists, but the American sense of attribution and accuracy in journalism isn't always understood by others.

People are lazy here too. I've had students turn in papers solely based on internet searches without verifying the accuracy of the sources they cite. Since when did citing internet pages become acceptable for a college term paper? Argh!


WC - I missed that incident! It's hilarious. But also not.

UPDATE 12 March:

Time for me to eat my hat. I did in fact receive a response to my email to the editor of the Shanghai Daily.

'We at Shanghai Daily don't think she plagiarizes your wrting, as you accused of her. She gave you attribution in every pharagraph she quoted from you.'

I have to disagree. The first bit of text she lifted from my post appears before she even mentions my name. The other two are not in quotation marks and are not preceded or followed by any words resembling 'Ms. Eckhardt says' or some such.

The editor notes later in his comments that my name is mentioned three times in the text. I don't know if he or she believes this constitutes attribution or if he or she thinks I should be mollified because I've achieved some amount of fame in pages of the Shanghai Daily.

But here's the kicker. The editor was kind enough to attach Ms. Weng's full text (not accessible on the website unless one is a subscriber). And there, on page two, is a comment, in quotation marks, attributed to me.

The problem - I never uttered those words, nor do they appear in my original post.

So, in addition to a bit of lifting, plenty of inaccuracy, and failure to cite the blog and my original post - the reporter has invented words and put them into my mouth.

IMO this all says a lot about the standards that the eds at Shanghai Daily hold their reporters to.


Very annoying. I don't blame you for being peeved.


The sad thing about this is that this is pretty much standard for Chinese cultures--and by this I do mean China, Taiwan, HK. Many students I have here in Taiwan grow up in the educational system believing that to "plagiarize" in the Western academic sense is actually to pay a compliment to someone's beautiful wording. Remember this is a society where art was for centuries NOT about innovation, but about how you conformed to a designed set of principles--hence 500 years of ink paintings of bamboo forests and mountains. The idea that you must clearly state your usage of other's ideas is fairly new to people here. I will say, though, that mainland China does indeed face a problem with this, moreso than in Taiwan. They really are "backwards" in terms of intellectual property rights. But part of it is due to the government in China, which actively lies, every single day, to its people through Xinhua news. (A great example for us in Taiwan is the Chinese government's ridiculous insistence that Taiwan's liberal DPP government is holding back the hordes of people crying for "unification with China" when the opposite is true: people in Taiwan want no part of the current Chinese government.) If you can't count on the truth, how can you expect attribution? It's a long way away for China.

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