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The world of the chinese internet, official media and other sources of confusion.

 

Facebook’s Evil Plan in China

Saturday, April 23rd, 2011

The great China Beat has just published an article by James A. Millward about Facebook’s controversial plans for China.  The article is written from a cultural/human rights perspective, and it includes an interesting passage from LuXun’s Nahan.

“Imagine an iron house without windows, absolutely indestructible, with many people fast asleep inside who will soon die of suffocation. But you know since they will die in their sleep, they will not feel the pain of death. Now if you cry aloud to wake a few of the lighter sleepers, making those unfortunate few suffer the agony of irrevocable death, do you think you are doing them a good turn?”

 

“But if a few awake, you can’t say there is no hope of destroying the iron house.”

A nice quote, not unlike some of the comments I got in the Ai Weiwei post. Mr. Millward’s point is, in a nutshell:  that businesses (and Bob Dylan) admittedly don’t have an obligation to spread democratic values. BUT that we can appeal to the stated principle of Facebook “to help people understand the world around them” and nail them with that.

This is an argument reminiscent of the Google non-evil saga, which makes me think:  the day all those tech companies stop getting themselves in trouble with their idealistic statements we will know the tech market is growing old…

Back to the post, I am not particularly against Mr. Millward’s point: the Chinese are “sleeping” in their iron house, let’s make some noise to wake them up. Then again, it may still be 5am in China now with the time difference, perhaps they want to stay in bed a bit longer…  it’s fine if you want to make noise outside, lead by example. But please don’t make the mistake of breaking in to kick them out of their beds. Only theirs is the freedom to choose, even when their choice is a bit more of oppression.

The View from Reality Camp

Back from the fascinating realm of metaphor and into the tough Chinese internet. Quite apart from the moral side of this, there are some important issues with the practical implementation of the FB plan in China:

  • As Bill Bishop already mentioned, the train has long passed for FB here. General social networks are all about critical mass of users, the rest is gimmicks. The only possible chance would be, as suggested by Hu Yanping,  to come with an existing local player.
  • Either way, it is impossible to implement the level of censorship required on social networks today without effectively separating them from the rest of the World-(ie. to have the FB China servers open in China and the rest of the World with Facebook.com behind the GFW).
  • This makes the whole Facebook plan pointless indeed, as it fails to deliver the single value that, in my view, could justify all the trouble: to help connect China with the rest of the World.

In conclusion, I wouldn’t worry so much about the ethical side of this-I doubt we will ever reach that point.  Facebook may lend their name to some weird creature in China, perhaps, and they will pay it with their reputation.  But the real core of Facebook  is the 500 million community that it has in the World, and this, unfortunately, is out of reach for the Chinese netizens.

An Interesting week in China

Friday, March 18th, 2011

So many things are happening outside China right now, I have the strange sensation that the roles have been reversed, and for once we are the onlookers instead of the targets of all eyes. It feels relaxing, and I note it’s had a great effect on the Chinese TV as well. After the absurdly oppressive weeks leading up to the NPC, they are now taking some time out.

bow japan flag

Some things I liked watching this week:

  • The coverage of the Earthquake continues to be great. Contrary to what some feared, the official media has prominently displayed the CCP leaders bowing to the Japanese flag, and some touching videos of Sichuanese victims remembering how Japan helped them in 2008. The hero of today? Not a soldier, but a young Chinese student who has decided to stay put in her post in Sendai, to continue with her duty in spite of the danger. I found it all really moving, perhaps because it was unexpected.
  • Another outside event: China has abstained from vetoing the UN resolution that allows “all necessary measures” against Libya if Gaddafi does not hold fire immediately. The same day the CCTV has openly explained this to the public, stating the possibility of foreign countries to intervene in Libyan affairs. I wonder if this would have been presented differently, had the tsunami not distracted attention from the Jasmine ideas—the vote itself would have probably been the same, it looks like there was no other option.
  • Finally back to China: there has been this amazing story of the salt, you can read it all in this interesting post. One of those crazy viral chains that spread like wildfire in China. Someone started a rumour that salt is essential against radiation, and within hours there was a nation-wide run on the convenience stores:

salt

An interesting phenomenon that this blogger explains as lack of political trust. I agree, and I add the following:

What is really remarkable about China is that the hoarding was so completely irrational. I mean, why would you get salt of all things? Anyone can go on the internet and see third party information to check about the salt. The first thing I did Tuesday is goggle “salt iodine radiation” to find some expert advice.

It looks like Chinese people don’t have this instinct of looking for different sources, perhaps due to years of media control. In the end, this is not a story of distrust, but rather of blind trust: the trust of all those absurd sms chains started by some Zhejiang guys (salt merchants?) saying that you need to get salt.

What is it that makes Chinese society so conductive for viral chains? My guess: not only distrust of the government, but also the lack of a liberal education and the instinct to search the truth for themselves.

To be fair, it was mostly older people and uneducated peasants that acted this way, there is still hope for the young generations. My colleagues at work found it all rather funny, and I received lots of jokes. They were also spreading like wildfire on kaixinwang.

The Japanese are queuing to get water. The Americans are queuing to get iPad 2s. The Chinese are queuing to get salt.

Chinese TV reporting on Earthquake

Monday, March 14th, 2011

I was pleased by the TV reporting we got on Chinese TV during the weekend. It was surprisingly fresh, with different specialists coming in live and direct connection with the Japanese NHK. At some point in the Finance Channel there was a photo-slide with images of the victims, played with Michael Jackson’s “Heal the World”, that was really chilling.

If you don’t live in China you probably think this is just normal disaster reporting. But after witnessing a number of recent disasters on Chinese TV, what I saw yesterday just felt real. The program was focusing on the victims rather than on politicians or soldiers—the presenter introduced last minute updates and had experts comment on them live—the channels were not all broadcasting exactly the same images—the speech was natural and not issued from a single mold—there were spontaneous human feelings on the screen, rather than the tired patriotic routine.

Even the ubiquitous Lianghui completely disappeared from some of the channels.

Of course I don’t expect this is be a new trend in Chinese TV. I assume that since it was the weekend and there was nothing directly at stake for the CCP, the officials in charge didn’t bother to issue directives—one can even imagine that the whole thing has been welcomed with relief in a certain sense, as it definitely deflects the heat of all those J revolutions. Click to continue »

Chinayouren is Free Again

Thursday, March 10th, 2011

After a few months in the shade of the GFW, I wanted to get active again on the internet, so as a first step today I have unblocked my blog. I think there has been a few quirks this morning as I was moving to the new URL and some of you might have seen weird things come up in the RSS- sorry for that.

With the previous experience of 2009 and following my own instructions, this time it has been a piece of cake, I managed to get the site completely open in less than 2 hours. Unfortunately, the GFW mechanism has also learnt since last time, and they have done  a URL block on the string “chinayouren.com”, which has forced me to change my URL. My new address is: http://chinayouren-free.com, write it down.

Yes, I know, how original. It is not supposed to be a statement of any kind, nor am I trying to rub it in. On the contrary, for those of you who have been paying attention, you know the only reason my unblocks are effective is because I am not well known to the censors. The minute I start getting too smart about it I will be down again in a click. This is not a campaign, and I am not an activist.

I chose free as in FOS, because it is easy to remember, but this operation is not free at all for me. I had to pay another 10$ for the new domain, and if this continues too long the GFW officers are going to squeeze Chinayouren dry. I feel also for the guys at the travel agency “chinayouren.com.cn” who have lost all the incoming connections from out of the mainland due to the URL string reset. They are mere pawns, as it were,  in an altogether larger game. [1] Click to continue »


NOTES:
  1. this is a good example of how the Wall behaves in both directions. the server of that site is hosted in China as all the .cn, and you are trying to view it from outside, you are crossing the wall on the inverse direction and tripping the block as well. If you view it from the mainland without a VPN you will have no problem at all []

卖抠 and the Tianya BBS Experience

Monday, May 3rd, 2010

SP32-20100503-124440Here is the post I promised analyzing the fate of our friend Michael in the Tianya BBS.  Michael (卖抠) is the main character in the little Chinese story I wrote last week. I didn’t write the story particularly for this purpose, but once it was there I thought it would be a good idea to repost it to the Chinese BBS forums. Most of my readers here are not Chinese speakers, and I was curious to see how it fared among natives.

Many of us visit forums like Tianya or Mop to read the hottest topics and get a feel of what is trending on the Chinese internet. However, we don’t usually take an actively role, at least I had never tried posting before. This experience with Michael has taught me a few things about how these forums work, and in particular one of the biggest, Tianya. I know many people out there are interested in this, so here are the points I noted for your info: Click to continue »

Shanghai Oriental Post editors are High

Monday, May 3rd, 2010

First day of opening 200,000 people all High

A little update on the Oriental Morning Post. I know nobody is interested because nobody actually reads this paper (not even its editors), but for the sake of consistency I have to inform of their new exploits. Follow me in this new chapter of their fascinating spiral to hell.

The weekend’s Oriental had the following breakthroughs:

A front page headline stating that the “200,000 people at the EXPO opening day were all high”. I have no idea why they wrote that “high” in English, but it looks like a silly eye-catcher in the wake of the English Letters debate. I suspect the editor didn’t intend any double meaning, in spite of the photograph. Click to continue »

US-China relations good: Change Sex

Saturday, April 17th, 2010

Today I just wanted to share this picture, taken by one of the brave reporters in the Oriental toilet paper, who were first on the scene:

交流

This is a brand new sculpture called “communication”, just arrived from the US to Shanghai to commemorate the 30 years of the opening of relations between the two countries. It is a great initiative, following the old tradition initiated in Troy and continued with the Statue of Liberty…

Except that, wait a second! Who are these guys? Do they represent Nixon and Mao? And why are they dressed up as two grannies getting ready for tea? Perverts! Click to continue »

To love the Country is not to love the Dynasty

Thursday, April 15th, 2010

Very sorry, this document has been erased!

This little piece by historian Hong Zhenkuai has been taken down from the Southern Metropolis, but it has managed to escape the censors on some other sites. I liked the subtle way Hong criticizes the reigning CCP dynasty, and the cool Chinese rendering of “L’Etat c’est moi” as “朕即国家“.

Since I don’t have the time for Language Thursdays today, I have done this bit of translation work:

The French Bourbon king Louis XIV reportedly said “L’etat c’est moi” [1]. Even if all the World’s sovereigns love autocracy, few of them would say it so openly. Louis XIV ruled from 1643 to 1715, the same period as China’s Kangxi. Kangxi’s thought was probably not unlike “L’etat c’est moi”, but clearly he had more “wisdom with Chinese characteristics” than Louis XIV – he did a lot of “humane actions”, thus earning a reputation of humane Lord while still ruling as a dictator.

In the ideas of the Sovereign People, the sovereignty belongs to the people and it is not “L’Etat c’est moi” but rather “L’Etat is us“. Of course this kind of ideas only appeared after Louis XIV’s death. In his age there were not many in the World who could tell the difference between the notions of sovereign, government and State. In China, even if the pre-Qin philosopher Mencius said: “first the people, then the State then the  monarch”, in fact in the 2000+ years since the Qin and the Han, Patriotism has meant Loyalty to the Monarch, and these two concepts are muddled. Click to continue »


NOTES:
  1. meaning the State is me []

The Time of Han Han (2) +Ulterior Rant

Monday, April 12th, 2010

Uterior Motives

Here is an update to yesterday’s review of Han Han, with some additional info about the Time nomination, which might be more important than it appears at first sight.

Then, if you stay till the end of this chapter, we will put on the yellow socks to analyze a bit more that terrible scourge of our times: the Ulterior Motives. This is for the benefit of all the puppet journalists and researchers who enjoy using that phrase, please pay attention.

The comments today come in the form of title-paragraphs, to allow for easy skimming:

1- The rules of the Time 100 are often misunderstood and heavily criticized, especially after internet star moot hacked the online poll last year and turned it into a joke. However, what you should keep in mind is that the internet poll only selects one of the members of the Time 100 list. That is, only the top person in the online poll makes it into the final official list, and in the position that Time editors decide. To be fair, it does make sense to include at least this one person from the poll, as it is representative of online mobilization power (when it is not hacked). Click to continue »

Job Posting: Cover the EXPO 2010

Thursday, April 1st, 2010

China Files is looking for an English native speaker based in Shanghai for a part time job during the EXPO shanghai 2010.

  • Preferably with journalism or media related experience.
  • Experience in video and photography will be an advantage.

We’re looking for someone clever, active and with excellent communication skills. This person will be in charge of the press coverage of one of the most interesting pavilions in the Expo: writing press releases, covering their activities and interviewing the biggest personalities they will invite.

Interested please send your resume to natalia.tobontobon@china-files.com

CNY NOTE: This is posted as a favour for the the multi-lingual blog China-Files.  I am not paid for this ad, I agreed to publish it because it might be useful for some reader. The position is paid and I think there are perks like a press card to access the  Expo, but please contact Natalia directly for the details. Good luck.

UPDATE: The Death of a Shanghai Newspaper

Thursday, April 1st, 2010

Last week I did a post where I gave three reasons why I thought the Oriental Morning Post was going to the dogs. This week I read an article on the DeluxZilla blog from Shanghai that makes the following observation:

Despite being a party newspaper, I am more a fan of the Shanghai Morning Post (新闻辰报) than the relatively less government-oriented Oriental Morning Post (东方日报). I find the Shanghai Morning Post to have more stories related to the city I live in, though the Shanghai paper sells out quicker outside my apartment building than the Oriental Morning Post, so I often have to settle for the Oriental if I make it outside past 10 a.m.

When I read this I realized why I almost never see the SMP and I am stuck with the Oriental. In the convenience store down my road it is exactly the same situation: most mornings the SMP is sold out by the time I get there, whereas the Oriental is still hanging like a stale fish when I am back from work in the evenings.

To confirm this information I sought the aid of a professional. Not the local Lawson’s store, but a proper newspaper selling stand:

Click to continue »

The Pioneering Demise of the Chinese Press

Friday, March 26th, 2010

The debate about the New Media and the Death of the Newspapers has been raging for years on the free internet. In the Chinese intranet [1], however, this question doesn’t raise so much interest, because journalism here was already murdered long ago by the hideous hand of the censors. It is for this reason that Chinese papers are today at the forefront of the media’s demise.

Without any more preambles, let me introduce you to the Oriental Morning Post, one of the two big morning papers in Shanghai. Here are some of their front pages this week:

19th to 26th March

Look at these front pages carefully, have you noticed there are adverts? Yes. I buy this paper every morning and I was very excited to see they have found an innovative way to face the crisis: just get rid of the news and replace them with ads. Gray Lady, Mr. Murdoch, are you paying attention? Herein lies perchance the salvation of the press. Click to continue »


NOTES:
  1. Yes, intranet, from now on I refuse to refer to this joke as the internet until the retards controlling the GFW understand the meaning of World Wide Web []