Thursday 17 December 2009

Pretty much everything you ever suspected about CCP control of the internet is true.

[Cross posted at GongShangFa]

Such is my conclusion after reading China Digital Times' translation of notes taken at a SCIO (State Council Information Office) training session attended by Peng Bo , Deputy Chief of the State Council Information Office Internet Affairs Bureau. Let's do a run down:

1) Government-driven discrimination against foreign companies out of fear of foreign influence -

Commercial websites must understand that it is the government that protects the development of domestic websites. If the Chinese internet didn’t have Xinlang, then Yahoo would have free rein; if there was no Baidu, then Google would have free rein; if there was no QQ, then MSN would have free rein. All of this is because the government is intentionally fostering domestic enterprises.

2) Attempts by the Chinese government to censor and control the effect of Obama's visit -

Criticize Sina for not thinking politically; when reporting on Obama’s visit to China, they played without authorization a video of Obama speaking in Shanghai.

The most important part of Obama’s visit to China was his speech in Shanghai. The format of this speech was different than the speech format used by past U.S. presidents when visiting China. It was specially designed by the U.S. government to enlarge Obama’s personal influence.

Before Obama visited China, America and China negotiated that websites and television stations would broadcast the event. China accepted their request; however, live television coverage was to be limited to Shanghai area television stations.

These measures were implemented to accord with the central government’s desire that people become enthused about China-U.S. relations rather than be enthused about Obama.

Providing a video of Obama’s speech without authorization was done for Sina’s commercial interest and was not done for the nation’s interest. In order to gain a little, a lot was lost.

3) Government censorship of overseas news reports felt not to be 'correct' (i.e., not negative) -

Criticize Netease for going after sensational stories and not doing a good job of directing public opinion. [Neatease's] international news headlines are always things like “New York Mayor Bloomberg Receives Annual Salary of $1”, “Black American Becomes Mayor”, “American Youth Becomes Mayor”. These headlines are sensationalist and cast aspersions [on the Chinese government]. [Netease] has set the wrong direction for public opinion and has not properly fulfilled its role as a guide [of public opinion]

Note the fact that positive foreign news is felt to be critical of the Chinese government. This was reinforced by Li Wufeng, Bureau Chief of the State Council Information Office Internet Affairs Bureau, in his talk at the same training session:

2. Currently, the online republishing of news stories has the following major problems:

2.1 Republishing articles from small papers and publications, even republishing articles from the foreign press.

2.2 The online news phenomenon of “news laundering” [i.e., getting a domestic publication to print news from a banned source and then quoting it] is still serious. Sometimes standard news sources do not even carry the story [that the republishing source claimed the standard news source published].

2.3 Intentionally posting unpermitted content on interactive interfaces (forums, blogs).

2.4 Small newspapers and websites republish each others’ stories, creating media hype. For example, the Deng Yujiao [official killed by waitress defending herself against rape] incident and the Hangzhou street race [well connected young man uses influence to escape serious charges related to hit-and-run killing] case.

Assuming these notes accurately reflect what was said at the training session, this is pure dynamite. It shows that the government's influencing, censorship and 'net nannying' of the Chinese internet is pervasive, and driven by a paranoid view of the media, both foreign and domestic. I 'm looking forward to reading the translated notes from the other official's talks.

Wednesday 16 December 2009

'Treasure hunters' tour world in search of looted articles

The NY Times today had an interesting article about a group of Chinese 'treasure hunters' who have been visiting museums in the United States searching for articles taken from the Yuanming Yuan, or Summer Palace, of the Chinese emperor by British and French soldiers in 1860. The palace was torched in revenge for the torture and killing of diplomats and prisoners of war, and its destruction remains a symbol of the 'hundred years of shame' during which China was subject to internal turmoil and external aggression.

However, these 'treasure hunters' have faced criticism of their own:

"The United States scouting tour — visits to England, France and Japan will come early next year — quickly turned into a spectacle sponsored by a Chinese liquor company. As for the eight-member delegation, a closer look revealed that most either were employed by the Chinese media or were from the palace museum’s propaganda department.

“These days even building a toilet at Yuanmingyuan would be front-page news in People’s Daily,” said Liu Yang, a researcher who joined the trip."

"Although the Chinese public broadly supports recovering such items, a few critics have suggested that the campaign merely distracts from the continued destruction of historic buildings and archaeological sites across the country. A government survey released this month found that 23,600 registered relics had disappeared in recent years because of theft or illicit sales, while tens of thousands of culturally significant sites had been plowed under for development.

What’s more, said Wu Zuolai, a professor at the China Academy of Art, the obsession with Yuanmingyuan ignores the plunder of older sites that are more artistically significant.

“Chinese history did not start with the Qing Dynasty,” he said. “This treasure hunting trip is just a political show. The media portray it as patriotic, but it’s just spreading hate.”"

There can be no doubt that the Opium War was a war of aggression fought for economic gain. There is also no doubt that the burning of the Yuanming Yuan was an unjustifiable act of vandalism. This said however, it happened almost 150 years ago, and is hardly the worst disaster to befall China in its history. The fact that billions of dollars worth of property was confiscated in 1949 from 'landlord' owners without compensation, and without even the slightest chance of the Chinese government compensating the surviving dispossessed and their families now, shows a selective view as to what constitutes a historical injustice.

Monday 7 December 2009

Facts of which we were unaware

This latest Seton Hall University of Law report carried by the Andrew Sullivan blog on the death of three Guantanamo inmates back in 2006, which I had at the time truly believed were suicides, is both deeply depressing and shockingly disturbing:

There is no explanation of how each of the detainees, much less all three, could have done the following: braided a noose by tearing up his sheets and/or clothing, made a mannequin of himself so it would appear to the guards he was asleep in his cell, hung sheets to block vision into the cell—a violation of Standard Operating Procedures, tied his feet together, tied his hands together, hung the noose from the metal mesh of ii the cell wall and/or ceiling, climbed up on to the sink, put the noose around his neck and released his weight to result in death by strangulation, hanged until dead and hung for at least two hours completely unnoticed by guards.

This happened in an extra-legal prison run by my home country's biggest ally. And nobody will be called to account for it.

"The inane meanderings of a petty little fascist . . . ."

[Cross posted at GongShangFa]

Such was going to be the conclusion of the piece I had just written on Raymond Zhou's indescribably vile (not to mention homophobic) passive-aggressive assault on Chinese wild-boy and subversive author/blogger Han Han. Unfortunately for me, but, dear readers, fortunately for you, before I could click on the button marked "publish" I saw this excellent translation of a Hecaitou post by ESWN over at ULN's place. Money quote:

There is nothing surprising about this nonsense from Raymond Zhou. But we have to be wary of the open hostility displayed in his open letter. The western media were made out to be evil people who want to shove every Chinese people into the fire pit. At the same time, he tied those who dared to fight for the rights of people onto the chariots of the evil western media:

Or you can bribe government censors to shut down your blog for a month. Have them launch a wide-ranging campaign against you. Organize students nationwide to denounce you. The shortest cut to Western credibility, I must add, is to get yourself thrown in jail. Until that happens, you are simply another "willing participant".

What does that mean? My interpretation is that: Those whose blogs were shut down, those who were criticized by a mass mobilization and those who were sent to prison did so in order to get a page in TIME and win the approval of the western media. It has been a long time since that I have not read any such cold-blooded words. If Raymond Zhou has the guts, he should provide a name list of such people and tell the public: Did these people think that "the quickest way to gain the approval of the western media" was to go to jail? Does Raymond Zhou not want Han Han to any more western media interviews? Does Raymond Zhou not want Han Han to blog about social injustices any more?

Absolutely to the point. Han Han has not yet replied, nor does it seem likely that he will, or even needs to. Hecaitou said it all.

Wednesday 2 December 2009

Seven Signs That You May Be A China Noob

With every year since China's reform and opening started in 1978 more and more foreign visitors have made the trip to experience the mysteries of the middle kingdom. Unfortunately, some new and inexperienced travellers seem to be in a mighty hurry to make total idiots of themselves. Fortunately for the FOARP, his days as a China newbie are buried back in the prehistory of The Time Before Blogs, but others are putting themselves at risk of severe future embarrassment should their noobish blog posts ever come to light. Here's the seven top symptoms of this Sinological syndrome so that you can be forewarned and forearmed:

1) Insisting on using 汉字 ("Chinese words") in every 句话 ("sentence") in a lame effort to show what a 中国通 ("China hand") you are.


You might as well just tattoo "傻屄" on your head.

2) Ever getting at all involved in what the term 'laowai' means.


If you argue either that the term is purely racist under all circumstances or that it is a sign of respect then you, my friend, are a laowiseass. The first can be countered by simply pointing out that plenty of wives married to white boys refer to their spouses as laowai, the second by even a second's worth of thinking - is "meiguolao" a respectful term for Americans?

3) Writing articles whose main premise is that China is not Wyomissing Hills, Pennsylvania.


Congratulations on being able to read a map. When people either lay into or overly praise China based solely on criteria which have nothing to do with conditions there you have to think that such articles have much more to do with where the writer came from than about where they are.

4) Writing commentary which basically boils down to "OMG! Chinese girls are so hot/girly/feminine/easy/whatever"


Our expat sisters are happily immune to this one, but unfortunately their much more numerous expat brethren are not. Once again, this seems to be much more about where the writer is coming from than about China.

5) Referring wisely to the concept of Guanxi.


Write "'Guanxi' = connections" ten times and get lost. This kind of commentary is strictly for noobs, everyone else knows that there's no such thing as a free lunch.

6) Making general statements about the Chinese people and culture.


There are very few generally true statements starting with the words "All foreigners are . . . ", and only marginally more which begin with the words "All Chinese people are . . . .". This doesn't stop people making them, but it should stop you from repeating either the excessively condemnatory language you hear in some quarters or the excessively laudatory language you hear in others. Here's a tip: before you write such a thing (e.g. "Chinese people are very conservative/modest/arrogant etc.") just stop and ask yourself whether a 20 minute walk through the average Chinese neighbourhood wouldn't turn up something directly contradicting that statement.

7) Compiling lists of things you like/don't like