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(Letter from BI Yantao) China: Internet censorship tightened

October 30th, 2008 Leave a comment Go to comments

As Beijing Olympics closed, the Internet censorship in China further tightened. Undeniably, this deterioration has affected and frustrated an increasing number of netizens in China.

First, it is unlikely now to publish any contribution on state-run or commercial websites in China once “sensitive words” are identified in your writing. Some blog-hosting sites practice self-censorship so strictly that I even couldn’t post a composition by a junior high school student.

Second, the highly controversial true-name registration system has actually been adopted by more websites in China. Recently when I tried to register with Tianya Community website, I was required to provide my mobile phone number, my ID card number or my true name to activate my account. Since in China all mobile phone users have already been demanded to register with true names, Tianya website is in fact imposing the controversial true-name registration system.

Third, some foreign websites, including those of Radio France International, have been blocked again after the Beijing Olympics drew to an end. Meanwhile, although other foreign websites remain approachable in China, some of their touchy contents are actually not accessible.

It seems to me that China has sent out contradictious signals regarding the online public opinion. On the one hand, the national leaders such as Hu Jintao and Wen Jiabao stressed repeatedly that they need to hear the voice of the people; on the other hand, the authorities have continuously enhanced the surveillance of the Internet, which will definitely scare away some web users.

(by BI Yantao, China)

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  1. October 30th, 2008 at 17:58 | #1

    If it’s true that Tianya is requiring new registrants to provide true-name registration, does anyone know if Tianya was compelled by the government or was this something that’s done independently (perhaps for other reasons beyond political control)?

  2. Charles Liu
    October 30th, 2008 at 18:45 | #2

    Here’s a suggestion that has works in US – if you don’t like a blog site, use a different one.

    Tianya is being $hi^^y? Go somewhere else.

  3. Ted
    October 30th, 2008 at 19:21 | #3

    In addition to Allen’s question (maybe the same)… Is Tianya required to verify/report new user information to the government as it comes in or is it meant to be stored for some kind of info-emergency? The former would be pretty disappointing.

    Somehow I don’t think the Federal-G had to twist Tianya’s arm on this one, the company can make a pretty penny when they turn around and sell that info. Sound’s to me like the end user is the only one who looses out.

    On a related note… should I not be using my real name?… because I’m not…. my name’s not Ted…

  4. Yantao
    October 30th, 2008 at 23:51 | #4

    To FM:

    Many thanks for publishing this article. I cherish this platform to voice my opinions. Also, it is a good chance to improve my English.

    To Allen, Charles and Ted:

    Thank you so much for your comments and suggestions. In fact, in addition to Tianya, some other websites in China are also imposing the true-name registration system. I feel unconvenient, uncomfortable and upsetting. Some foreign media have recently covered the internet censorship in China, but they all say they don’t know exactly which governmental sector(s) are behind it.

    I wrote this article simply because I love China. I signed my true name when releasing this stuff because I will take full responsibilities for what I have said.

    This article was originally published at http://nightwatchcn.blogspot.com. There I also wrote a brief intro to Fool’ s Mountain and all of you: FM’s users.

    Warm regards,

    YT in China

  5. Wukailong
    October 31st, 2008 at 02:02 | #5

    @Charles Liu: If all Chinese websites enforce this, you will have to use a foreign service which is probably blocked from time to time (wordpress, blogspot etc). I have experience with it and it’s not as simple as it sounds.

    Btw, some time ago I read a comment here by someone (not the usual posters) who said that internet censorship is something that only bothers spoiled Western kids who can’t access their favorite blog while in China. Is that so?

  6. Jerry
    October 31st, 2008 at 02:33 | #6


    I noted these articles below a few days ago at CDT and CNet. And Allen, you wonder why I distrust government?

    “Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose!” What else is new? These cats, whether in China or the US, never change their stripes. As we say in the US: “Same old game!”

    It seems to me that China has sent out contradictious signals regarding the online public opinion. On the one hand, the national leaders such as Hu Jintao and Wen Jiabao stressed repeatedly that they need to hear the voice of the people; on the other hand, the authorities have continuously enhanced the surveillance of the Internet, which will definitely scare away some web users.

    Crimony! Yantao, you nicely say “contradictious”, I say euphemisms and duplicity. I heard similar during the passing of Patriot Act I and II and FISA. “If you don’t have anything to hide, why would you object? You have nothing to fear.” Liars! I object to any government, West or East, which unwarrantedly spies on its people. I ask those in government, “Why do you need to spy on the citizens of your country?” And, speaking of that, I have heard about the massive implementation of CCTV spy cameras in Shenzhen. (http://www.efluxmedia.com/news_Cameras_monitor_your_every_step_in_Chinas_most_watched_city_23054.html) (There is also an earlier article by Naomi Klein at Rolling Stone magazine’s site: http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/story/20797485/chinas_allseeing_eye)

    Here are the articles on Chinese Internet café monitoring.


    October 19, 2008 12:12 PM PDT

    Beijing Net cafes to take mug shots, scan IDs

    Posted by Graham Webster

    In a purported effort to cut down on “ID sharing” in Beijing’s Internet cafes, the government will require that by the end of 2008, first-time visitors will have their picture taken and ID scanned before being allowed online, according to The Beijing News and the China Media Project.

    Users were already required to show identification when they entered, a rule that has been spottily enforced at times but more strictly, by most accounts, since preparations for the Olympics began. David Bandurski at China Media Project writes:

    The newspaper quoted Li Fei (李菲), a spokesperson for the Beijing Cultural Law Enforcement Agency, as saying the policy was aimed at preventing “ID sharing” (一证多用). The monitoring platform will allow enforcement officials to target any terminal at any Internet bar in the city to compare the user with registered information.

    Perhaps this is indeed aimed at “ID sharing,” but another piece that Bandurski quotes, an editorial in the China Youth Daily, sees the new policy as creating the potential for invasion of privacy.

    In this monitoring system that renders users “naked,” how will the freedom and privacy of citizens using the Internet be protected? The Beijing Cultural Law Enforcement Agency reassures us that these controls end with the enforcement team’s monitoring platform and that we “have no need to be concerned about the leaking of personal information.”

    But aside from worrying that personal information might be leaked to others, we also worry that the freedom of our online communication and the privacy of our conversations will be betrayed by public power.

    Under this platform of “monitoring of any terminal at any Internet bar in the city,” won’t monitoring mean that enforcement officials will have the right or the opportunity to view our chat histories? Can they not read our private correspondence at will? Won’t any and all online behavior fall under the eyes of the enforcement officials?

    If this is the case, then all Web users really are “entirely naked,” if only before a limited number of enforcement personnel.

    Read a fuller quote from the editorial in Bandurski’s post.

    Originally posted at Sinobyte: China and technology

    Formerly a journalist and consultant in Beijing, Graham Webster is a graduate student studying East Asia at Harvard University. At Sinobyte, he follows the effects of technology on Chinese politics, the environment, and global affairs. He is a member of the CNET Blog Network, and is not an employee of CNET. Disclosure.

    And now for the Xinhua propaganda point of view …


    Photo, ID required in Beijing Internet cafes

    When Zhang Lihong entered Suosi Internet cafe in Xicheng District, Beijing Oct. 16, she noticed something new on the counter- a machine with a digital camera and scanner.

    “Please have your photo taken, and your ID card scanned here,” the clerk stood up and said.

    Zhang was confused and wanted to know why she had to do this. The clerk explained that authorities are trying to crack down on Internet misuse in the city.

    The 24-year-old’s photo and a copy of her resident identity card were sent to the Municipal Law Enforcement Agency of Beijing and placed in a file.

    Zhang was then given a four-digit password, escorted to a computer, and told to enter her information on an interface to activate the computer.

    “You don’t need to go through the same process again when you visit Internet cafes like us,” the clerk explained. “By providing your ID number, you can check in after we verify your filed information.”

    Zhang smiled as she started to surf the Internet.

    “This is a reasonable measure. You spend two minutes and you can enjoy a healthier virtual world,” she said. “Today, there are many hackers, net rumors being spread around and people sending erotic content. Now that users have their images taken, they dare not do bad things.”

    A spokeswoman from the Municipal Law Enforcement Agency of Beijing said 1,500 Internet cafes in 14 districts and counties of the city have the same device. It is called the Beijing Internet Cafe Customer Registration Device.

    “By the middle of December, Internet cafes in another four districts and counties of Beijing will receive these devices,” said the spokeswoman who wanted to remain anonymous.

    “The new device annoyed me a lot at first,” said Li Yunfei, the manager of Suosi Internet Cafe. “80% of my customers just went away when they saw the device. My cafe was like an empty classroom.”

    After a month, people become used to it, however, and Li’s turnover recovered.

    “After all, I need to use it, or I will be fined and will lose my reputation,” Li said.

    Jia Fei, the manager of Hailetong Internet Cafe, a chain with more than 500 computers, believes the new system makes his work more efficient.

    “Now I can easily track the exact online time of my customers and when they switch to other computers,” Jia said. “If someone commits Internet crimes, I can help the police to pin him.”

    Ma Zhengnan expressed relief when she heard about the new devices outside an Internet cafe near her 18-year-old son’s high school.

    “This can keep students away from indulging in computer games,” Ma said.

    However, some netizens dislike the law enforcement initiative.

    “I will not go to Internet cafes any more,” said Li Weiwei. “Who knows if my personal information is being exposed to people with bad motives.”

    (Xinhua News Agency October 17, 2008)

  7. Wukailong
    October 31st, 2008 at 03:57 | #7

    @Jerry: Careful, some people might say you “spew” “nasty anti-Chinese rhetoric”! 🙂

  8. TahwYOJ
    October 31st, 2008 at 04:31 | #8

    Yes… It’s nasty anti-chinese… by the CCP!

  9. Jerry
    October 31st, 2008 at 05:11 | #9

    @Wukailong #7

    ‘Careful, some people might say you “spew” “nasty anti-Chinese rhetoric”! 🙂 ’ ::LOL:: I plead guilty, your honor. 😀 Allen has similarly and earlier warned me.

    I also spew against American authoritarians like Bush, Cheney and the like. Incorrigible I am, for sure. I am democratic (little d) about it. I will call it as I see it, no matter where. Sometimes not very gently, either.

    Continuing in my previous vein and spewing, I want to quote some excerpts from Naomi Klein’s article I mentioned above (Did you ever notice that many of my citations come from Jews; Naomi is also Quebecois; she is the author of “The Shock Doctrine”). She wrote this pre-Olympics. This is also a cautionary tale and warning to Americans. Shenzhen may be a demo project for the latest in pre-emptive social monitoring and spying.

    Excerpted from http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/story/20797485/chinas_allseeing_eye

    … Now, as China prepares to showcase its economic advances during the upcoming Olympics in Beijing, Shenzhen is once again serving as a laboratory, a testing ground for the next phase of this vast social experiment. Over the past two years, some 200,000 surveillance cameras have been installed throughout the city. Many are in public spaces, disguised as lampposts. The closed-circuit TV cameras will soon be connected to a single, nationwide network, an all-seeing system that will be capable of tracking and identifying anyone who comes within its range — a project driven in part by U.S. technology and investment. Over the next three years, Chinese security executives predict they will install as many as 2 million CCTVs in Shenzhen, which would make it the most watched city in the world. (Security-crazy London boasts only half a million surveillance cameras.)

    The security cameras are just one part of a much broader high-tech surveillance and censorship program known in China as “Golden Shield.” The end goal is to use the latest people-tracking technology — thoughtfully supplied by American giants like IBM, Honeywell and General Electric — to create an airtight consumer cocoon: a place where Visa cards, Adidas sneakers, China Mobile cellphones, McDonald’s Happy Meals, Tsingtao beer and UPS delivery (to name just a few of the official sponsors of the Beijing Olympics) can be enjoyed under the unblinking eye of the state, without the threat of democracy breaking out. With political unrest on the rise across China, the government hopes to use the surveillance shield to identify and counteract dissent before it explodes into a mass movement like the one that grabbed the world’s attention at Tiananmen Square.

    Remember how we’ve always been told that free markets and free people go hand in hand? That was a lie. It turns out that the most efficient delivery system for capitalism is actually a communist-style police state, fortressed with American “homeland security” technologies, pumped up with “war on terror” rhetoric. And the global corporations currently earning superprofits from this social experiment are unlikely to be content if the lucrative new market remains confined to cities such as Shenzhen. Like everything else assembled in China with American parts, Police State 2.0 is ready for export to a neighborhood near you. (my emphasis, not the author’s) …

    … In 2006, the Chinese government mandated that all Internet cafes (as well as restaurants and other “entertainment” venues) install video cameras with direct feeds to their local police stations. Part of a wider surveillance project known as “Safe Cities,” the effort now encompasses 660 municipalities in China. It is the most ambitious new government program in the Pearl River Delta, and supplying it is one of the fastest-growing new markets in Shenzhen.

    But the cameras that Zhang manufactures are only part of the massive experiment in population control that is under way here. “The big picture,” Zhang tells me in his office at the factory, “is integration.” That means linking cameras with other forms of surveillance: the Internet, phones, facial-recognition software and GPS monitoring.

    This is how this Golden Shield will work: Chinese citizens will be watched around the clock through networked CCTV cameras and remote monitoring of computers. They will be listened to on their phone calls, monitored by digital voice-recognition technologies. Their Internet access will be aggressively limited through the country’s notorious system of online controls known as the “Great Firewall.” Their movements will be tracked through national ID cards with scannable computer chips and photos that are instantly uploaded to police databases and linked to their holder’s personal data. This is the most important element of all: linking all these tools together in a massive, searchable database of names, photos, residency information, work history and biometric data. When Golden Shield is finished, there will be a photo in those databases for every person in China: 1.3 billion faces. …

    Hmmm … Verrrry Interessssting!

  10. Charles Liu
    October 31st, 2008 at 06:10 | #10

    Yeah about the cameras on the streets. When I was in Paris they were everywhere too. Can we blame them on the CCP too?

    All kidding aside, why is it closed circuit cameras in the streets of Paris and London don’t elicit the kind of visceral reaction?

  11. Charles Liu
    October 31st, 2008 at 06:18 | #11

    Yantao, Wukai, I just went to blog.sina.com.cn and signed up an account without giving any true identity.

    Can I have the article from the junior high school student? I’d like to try posting it on my new sina blog account.

  12. Charles Liu
    October 31st, 2008 at 06:30 | #12

    Yantao, goto sina blog, they are not asking for any identity. Here’s the test account I registered, no personal info is necessary:


  13. S.K. Cheung
    October 31st, 2008 at 06:32 | #13

    To Jerry:
    “”Now that users have their images taken, they dare not do bad things.” ” – LOL. Yeah, like criticizing the CCP…heaven forbid that OMG!

    Your French continues to impress, BTW.

    Somewhat to my own surprise, I’m not entirely against the CCTV’s. If heightened monitoring can deter bad people from doing bad things, that’s not such a horrible development. But the real name registration and internet monitoring is bothersome. The government is now the thought police…they don’t necessarily have to actively stamp out “bad” thoughts, however (for instance, wanting to say that Hu Jintao’s mother wears army boots); their mere presence will deter people from expressing thoughts that might even remotely be construed as causing “societal instability”. Pretty soon, Chinese internet might become a pretty sterile place.

  14. Charles Liu
    October 31st, 2008 at 06:39 | #14

    SK, would you be suprised to learn US government also monitors the internet?


    If I suddenly stopped posting you all know what happened.

  15. TahwYOJ
    October 31st, 2008 at 06:47 | #15

    C. Liu,

    They DO!!! You just don’t hear about it… Many in the west are crazy pissed about all the censorship/surveillance that goes on… But many are also asleep and don’t give a **** as long as they got football and the daily show.

    It’s just like China man. How many “fenqings” really think about what’s going on. How many middle-class types think whatever the gov. is doing as long as China is growing… Hell, many on this site think the same thing… It’s all eventually blah blah.

    It’s never alright to let the gov. do whatever they please… Gov. are supposed to serve the people…

    It’s idealistic to think this way? Give me break man.

    BTW, I’m sure SKC knows about it. Occasionally I see people perpetuating the same thing that SKC is accused of doing. That is, pointing fingers at what’s wrong somewhere else yet fail to see that exactly the same is going on in one’s own neck-of-woods. This is not anti-China… I know the difference between China and Evil…

    The question is do we want to just continuously talk…?? We need real solutions. The first step is to recognize that China has many problems!!! Once we recognize that there are problems… Let’s find ways to solve. Instead of always blaming “the West” (sure, there have bias.) We must strive for self-improvement before anything else.

  16. Wukailong
    October 31st, 2008 at 07:15 | #16

    I wouldn’t be surprised to hear that any government monitors the Internet, whatever we feel about it (recently a controversial bill that allows a Swedish agency to monitor _all_ email traffic that crosses the borders were passed). I’m not in favor of it, but I’m not surprised it happens.

    The government here (China) doesn’t only monitor the Internet. It also actively stops a lot of pages from loading and even resets the connection for some very sensitive topics (like when somebody begins to discuss FLG in the threads, the connection just stops). Now, if you’ve registered your name and ID card, the police will be able to find you and question you.

    Now does _that_ happen in all countries?

  17. S.K. Cheung
    October 31st, 2008 at 07:15 | #17

    To Charles:
    well, the government can also listen in on your cell phone traffic. And if you haven’t been careful who your friends are, they may be listening in on your land-line phone too. That’s not news.

    But for all I know, your name could be John Smith. However, with this new system in China, if you say you’re Charles, we, as well as the government, can be sure of that. And not just any Charles, but YOU. And I think that’s far more Orwellian than what we have in these parts.

    BTW, you seem to be tapped into all the conspiracy sites…how do you get to sleep at night, and do you jump when things go boo in the night….

  18. Wukailong
    October 31st, 2008 at 07:18 | #18

    @SKC: “BTW, you seem to be tapped into all the conspiracy sites…how do you get to sleep at night, and do you jump when things go boo in the night….”

    I remember this guy who was into UFO conspiracies, but said that half an hour of washing dishes was enough to get rid of any feelings of paranoia.

  19. TahwYOJ
    October 31st, 2008 at 07:23 | #19

    Dude… I can see somewhat having a real-id system in theory can provide protection against scams… That is if we trust the government. But we all know we should never trust them. Hence this system suck donkey ballz.

  20. Yantao
    October 31st, 2008 at 07:23 | #20

    To Charles:

    Thank you for your info. I also have an account on blog.sina.com. Yes, I have successfully posted the composition by the high school student (but deleted it afterwards as the student hoped). But last time, one or two weeks after the Beijing Olympics, I was reminded there were some improper contents in it. It is great that bloggers at sina.com enjoy more freedom now.

    I also agree with you that CCTV cameras are not necessarily related to political control.I studied twice in Europe. There are so many CCTV cameras there. In my opinion,the key point is why they employ these devices.

  21. Charles Liu
    October 31st, 2008 at 07:29 | #21

    TahwYOJ, I’m American, so naturally I want to see America to improve. I ain’t from Mainland China and I wish you people luck. I really do, especially knowing what America is doing to your country.

    SK, I don’t think Google is a conspiracy site. The link provided above have a range of opinion and evidence. It’s up to you to verify it. As to “YOU”, well, I just signed up a blog acct in China without giving anything personal. See link provided above.

  22. Jerry
    October 31st, 2008 at 07:31 | #22

    @S.K. Cheung #13

    Somewhat to my own surprise, I’m not entirely against the CCTV’s. If heightened monitoring can deter bad people from doing bad things, that’s not such a horrible development.

    Hmmm … If I could limit the monitoring to “deter bad people from doing bad things”, that would be ok with me under several conditions. I get to determine the meanings of “bad people” and “bad things”. I have oversight and control so that I can stop “mission creep”. As you can see, this could get to be rather vague and nebulous. At least face-to-face, human-to-human, community policing allows you to see the presence and they to see you. Otherwise, they might as well be bomber pilots flying at 30,000 feet.

    It is the other uses which Naomi cites which make my blood run cold: Data mining, 24-hour monitoring and tracking, massive databases full of information about each and every person. Previous histories of the SS/Gestapo, the Stasi, CIA, Mossad, KGB, NSA, and MI6, to name just a few, have many cautionary tales.

    I agree with your other comments on #13

  23. S.K. Cheung
    October 31st, 2008 at 07:35 | #23

    To Wukailong:
    that’s hilarious. So he replaces paranoia with obsessive-compulsiveness….that guy’s got issues. Maybe when I’m done, he can take my place on the couch.

  24. S.K. Cheung
    October 31st, 2008 at 07:41 | #24

    To Charles,
    of course Google isn’t conspiratory…unless they take your search criteria, analyze it over time, “profile” you, then sell said “profile” to some company…

    But I’m also guessing that the search terms project carnivore operation magic lantern didn’t randomly fall out of the sky.

  25. S.K. Cheung
    October 31st, 2008 at 07:51 | #25

    To TahwYOJ:
    I agree that a real ID system isn’t “all” bad. If it stops the cyber porn, bullying, scams as you say, those are all good things. BUt in the west, such positives would be weighed against the potential negatives, and it would likely ultimately be arbitrated by some court. But in China, it’s my way or highway.

    To Jerry:
    while I’m surprisingly amenable to surveillance, I agree that I would be far more concerned about tracking and profiling without probable cause. I was thinking more along the lines of “man snatches purse, caught on video” as opposed to “we have video footage of you 24/7 for the past 5 years”.

  26. Jerry
    October 31st, 2008 at 08:01 | #26

    @Charles #14

    SK, would you be suprised to learn US government also monitors the internet?


    Charles, of course they monitor the Internet and cell phones and maybe landlines (as SK mentioned). Why do you think there has been so much controversy surrounding the 2 Patriot Acts and the rewriting of the FISA laws? Many Americans do not like being spied upon. They like their privacy, which I view as a “human right”. And then there is Mukasey’s expansion of FBI internal espionage in the US.

    Excerpted from http://www.commondreams.org/archive/2008/07/10/10255

    Published on Thursday, July 10, 2008 by Salon.com

    The FBI’s Plan to ‘Profile’ Muslims

    by Juan Cole

    The U.S. Justice Department is considering a change in the grounds on which the FBI can investigate citizens and legal residents of the United States. Till now, DOJ guidelines have required the FBI to have some evidence of wrongdoing before it opens an investigation. The impending new rules, which would be implemented later this summer, allow bureau agents to establish a terrorist profile or pattern of behavior and attributes and, on the basis of that profile, start investigating an individual or group. Agents would be permitted to ask “open-ended questions” concerning the activities of Muslim Americans and Arab-Americans. A person’s travel and occupation, as well as race or ethnicity, could be grounds for opening a national security investigation.

    The rumored changes have provoked protests from Muslim American and Arab-American groups. The Council on American Islamic Relations, among the more effective lobbies for Muslim Americans’ civil liberties, immediately denounced the plan, as did James Zogby, the president of the Arab-American Institute. Said Zogby, “There are millions of Americans who, under the reported new parameters, could become subject to arbitrary and subjective ethnic and religious profiling.” Zogby, who noted that the Bush administration’s history with profiling is not reassuring, warned that all Americans would suffer from a weakening of civil liberties. …

    As I said before, the CCTV/Golden Shield issue, Patriot Act I and II, The FISA Law rewrite, et al are dangerous. They are subject to mission creep and misinterpretation (sometimes zealous and perhaps overzealous). Some uses may be benign; some may be malevolent beyond belief.

    My question to any government which wishes to spy on its citizens, “Why do you need to spy on the citizens of your country?”

  27. Jerry
    October 31st, 2008 at 08:12 | #27

    @S.K. Cheung #25

    I was thinking more along the lines of “man snatches purse, caught on video” as opposed to “we have video footage of you 24/7 for the past 5 years”.

    OK, SK, so how do we set up the legal firewall to accomplish crime deterrence /monitoring while preventing heinous, unacceptable uses? Methinks therein lies the rub! 🙂 Why does this sound to me like an ethical dilemma? Is this a similar dilemma which Einstein faced during the Manhattan project? Hmmm? …

  28. S.K. Cheung
    October 31st, 2008 at 08:29 | #28

    To Jerry:
    well, hopefully this dilemma doesn’t involve leveling cities and starting an arms race…

    Off the cuff, i’d say it should be an independent government agency conducting it, ie not farmed out to some company to operate and manage the surveillance, for profit. But this agency is also independent of the police. Second, the recording should loop and overwrite every (insert suitable number) hours/days. Third, the police/state can only access the footage with a warrant. Fourth, publication ban on any footage used in court, so that “innocent bystanders” do not have their privacy compromised. That’s all I can think of for now.

  29. cephaloless
    October 31st, 2008 at 11:56 | #29

    Looks like we’ve got censorship and monitoring. I really can’t stand behind censorship of any kind (no reason to trust censoring authority) but it looks like the conversation is focused on monitoring anyway. I don’t really stand against monitoring either (not that paranoid) although that also depends on trust in the monitoring agency. I don’t think an independent government agency running the monitoring program actually helps with the trust (was KGB kind of like that?). Requiring warrants might help but I’m sure bad people will find ways around that.

    Now, about CCTV cameras all over the place. Anybody remember reading about the high number of cameras in england, particularly this high crime rate stretch of road. Those cameras are there to catch the bad guys committing crimes. Unfortunately, it didn’t help as much as they hoped. There’s too much data.

  30. Steve
    October 31st, 2008 at 12:27 | #30

    cephaloless~ I think you’ve hit the key fact… too much data. How can any government use the data collected, whether from street cameras, internet usage, cell phone monitoring, etc. All they can do is write programs to identify certain words or phrases, or go back to check footage on “after the fact” crimes.

    If I write an email to a friend in China and I happen to talk about certain sensitive issues, for their protection I just substitute letters for words or change the spellings slightly, etc. It’s not that I’m saying anything particularly controversial, I just don’t want them to be singled out and get into trouble for something I wrote. I was able to get around the American newspaper block in 2001 by using county named newspapers, so usually there is a way to avoid some of the censorship.

    I remember reading awhile back about the cameras mounted in London. That was the first city to use blanket monitoring. China thought it was a great idea and as someone wrote previously, I believe used Shenzhen as their guinea pig site. Is it because a very large portion of the population there are from other places in China and their crime rate is high? Or do you know of another reason? Are ordinary Chinese up in arms about the cameras or do they think it is a good idea?

    Jerry, you’ve hit the reason I hate the so-called “war on terror”. It just gives governments an open ended reason to do whatever they want. Some might say that my opposition to the Patriot Act is a libertarian position. For me, it’s a constitutional one.

  31. bt
    October 31st, 2008 at 14:14 | #31

    @Bi Yantao

    You seems to be strong minded and courageous man … congratulations for your post.
    If the trend of real name registration is really in the air, that’s indeed quite disturbing for PR Chinese Netizens.
    As usual, wait and see …

  32. ChinkTalk
    October 31st, 2008 at 14:42 | #32

    The majority of the Canadian media are owned by the Asper family. You would never see or hear anything negative about Israel or the Jewish people in the Canadian media. (Not that I advocate negativity, just to make a point). I rather have a government doing the censoring since we know who is responsible. It is dangerous to allow private individuals (like media barons) to have censoring power since there is no accountability. If you live in the real world, you would know that there is no absolute freedom of expression. The Communist Chinese will censor things that are sensitive to them and the Western media and governement will censor those things that they would find objectionable.

  33. ChinkTalk
    October 31st, 2008 at 15:04 | #33

    “Si Dieu n’existait pas, il faudrait l’inventer” – Voltaire

  34. Wukailong
    October 31st, 2008 at 15:24 | #34

    “If you live in the real world, you would know that there is no absolute freedom of expression. The Communist Chinese will censor things that are sensitive to them and the Western media and governement will censor those things that they would find objectionable.”

    I’m sorry to say this but in the real world, I still find the mild Internet censorship of the West (which I’ve never encountered) preferable to the Chinese censorship which I encounter all day. It [the latter] makes my net slow and sometimes resets my connection because there happens to be a bad word in there somewhere.

    I wonder why people want to believe so heavily that the West and China is the same way in this regard, when there is so much talk about differences in other cases. I feel there is a principle at work here: if China is criticized, then all countries have the problem; if China is good at something, then she’s unique.

  35. Raj
    October 31st, 2008 at 16:29 | #35


    All kidding aside, why is it closed circuit cameras in the streets of Paris and London don’t elicit the kind of visceral reaction?

    Because they have no way of tracking what websites you access on the internet or what comments you write. Few people care if others know they shop at Tesco’s, but most do if their personal views are monitored.

    SK, would you be suprised to learn US government also monitors the internet?

    Assuming all of what you described is correct, it is still not the same as what China is doing. Beijing is attempting to tie people to their comments for political reasons and generally monitor what they say, whereas the US would be trying to monitor specific accounts of criminal suspects.



    The Communist Chinese will censor things that are sensitive to them and the Western media and governement will censor those things that they would find objectionable.

    That’s completely bogus. European and American governments do not have anywhere as much ability to control the media as the Chinese government does. Note how the White House, Number 10 and the rest will get slagged off in the media, the denials, the threats of court action, official complaints, investigations, etc. Over here the media has far more scope to write what it wants and regularly gives those in power a good thrashing – completely the reverse in China.



    I’m sorry to say this but in the real world, I still find the mild Internet censorship of the West (which I’ve never encountered) preferable to the Chinese censorship which I encounter all day. It [the latter] makes my net slow and sometimes resets my connection because there happens to be a bad word in there somewhere.

    I agree. It was bad enough in China that I couldn’t get paper copies of my favourite newspapers, but access to them online was not regular and often troublesome. Plus of course the BBC News website was blocked. Yeah, knowing that the British PM got slammed for a dodgy policy is clearly a threat to Chinese national security, or perhaps the idea that there are functioning multi-party democracies around the world is a “State secret”.

    But in the UK you can access any Chinese newspaper online, any forum, etc and a heck of a lot of them are available for sale in paper format, especially in the big cities. I always find it ironic that many Chinese expats will say China has a right to censor the media and internet, yet they rely on media freedom to access news from back home. Very hypocritical.

    I wonder why people want to believe so heavily that the West and China is the same way in this regard, when there is so much talk about differences in other cases.

    Because they are:

    a) in denial; and/or
    b) feel better by pretending that no one is in a better position.

  36. Steve
    October 31st, 2008 at 17:20 | #36

    “If you live in the real world, you would know that there is no absolute freedom of expression. The Communist Chinese will censor things that are sensitive to them and the Western media and governement will censor those things that they would find objectionable.”

    I agree with Wukailong and Raj, and want to point out that there is a logical fallacy at work here. There is freedom of speech, but you cannot yell “Fire” in a crowded theater. Therefore, there isn’t any absolute freedom of speech and governments can regulate it as they see fit, including the regulation of all speech. Freedom of expression is an implied right. You cannot walk naked down the street, therefore there is no absolute freedom of expression and any form of it can be forbidden by government initiative. The internet is open but if someone puts up a site on how to make homemade terrorist bombs it will be taken down. Therefore, there isn’t any absolute freedom of the internet and the government can censor anything it likes.

    That is a fallacy by degree. It’d be like saying since the USA allows capital punishment for certain forms of criminal behaviour, therefore it is acceptable for a country to allow massive amounts of capital punishment with no limits, including genocide. Conversely, a country that does not allow capital punishment would say it is wrong in all circumstances and actually have a more legitimate argument. Allowing something under certain specific circumstances does not make you a hypocrite if you criticize that same event when it is allowed under a variety of circumstances, or for vague, undefined situations.

    As Wukailong said, when you’ve lived in both countries, there is absolutely no comparison in the amount of censorship. What I find disheartening in China is that the internet was more open under Jiang than under Hu. The censorship is actually getting worse rather than better.

    Something to note: Since the Republicans passed the Patriot Act increasing censorship, they have lost the Senate and the House, and most likely will lose the Presidency. They are paying a heavy price for their policies, including this one.

    “I rather have a government doing the censoring since we know who is responsible. It is dangerous to allow private individuals (like media barons) to have censoring power since there is no accountability.”

    Since China increased its censorship, what has been the accountability to the government for taking that action? What choices do the Chinese people have to express their objections? This has always been one of the sticking points with any type of one party authoritarian government.

  37. cephaloless
    October 31st, 2008 at 17:39 | #37

    “What I find disheartening in China is that the internet was more open under Jiang than under Hu. The censorship is actually getting worse rather than better.”

    Could that be more of an issue with technical capability than with policy since the Golden Shield project was completed in Hu’s term. I didn’t pay that much attention to the atmosphere of things back then.

  38. Raj
    October 31st, 2008 at 17:41 | #38

    Steve, good points on US legislation. I’m not sure whether it changed many people’s votes, but it didn’t help the GOP either. As for expression of complaints, there are some horrible Chinese blog entries on how many petitioners are treated – and that’s supposed to be legal!



    Could that be more of an issue with technical capability than with policy since the Golden Shield project was completed in Hu’s term.

    My understanding is that it’s not just the internet but also how the general media are allowed to report. You may be right, but the views of many analysts was that Hu was surprised by the increase in reports on things like corruption and deliberately acted to try to stem the flow of “bad news”.

  39. Steve
    October 31st, 2008 at 17:58 | #39

    cephaloless: When I first arrived in China, internet sites of foreign newspapers were blocked, so I had to get imaginative to work around them. But when the NY Times interviewed Jiang and afterwards asked him why their internet site was blocked, he said he would check on it and the next day they were all available, not just the Times but all the news sites. I have to believe that Jiang made that decision personally because of the timing involved.

    Because “the buck stops here” which is at the top, I also blame Hu for the increase of censorship. China not only had the capability under Jiang but exercised it until he changed it, so I don’t think it has anything to do with the Golden Shield. I believe the new technology is dealing with internet usage inside China more than from outside to in, since China catches the outside data at entry points into the country. There are only a few intercontinental cable entry points to monitor.

    Many of my Chinese friends just used proxy servers back then to access whatever they wanted. I’ve read that these days, China has managed to place barriers to the more well known servers so it is more difficult than before. Anyone know if you can still use proxy servers successfully over there? I also heard that just before the Olympics, they shut down a lot of the VPN access, at least in Shanghai where friends of mine live. Did they relax that restriction yet?

  40. October 31st, 2008 at 19:58 | #40

    wow it sux to live in china. the gov’t blows so hard.

  41. Yantao
    October 31st, 2008 at 21:07 | #41

    @ bt:

    Thank you for your encouragement!

    @ All:

    At this moment I am still not sure what I will pay for this post. I hope the authorities are open enough now to deem this kind of discussions natural.

  42. Charles Liu
    October 31st, 2008 at 22:28 | #42

    Jim, while their government blows so hard, it has not invaded another country under false WMD pretext – unlike ours.

  43. TahwYOJ
    November 1st, 2008 at 03:20 | #43

    You mean blows hard so hard ohhhh duuu my mouth is numb


    And that’s why I don’t do drugs… No way in hell I’m getting sucked into this hole..

  44. S.K. Cheung
    November 1st, 2008 at 06:29 | #44

    To Steve #30:
    “I just substitute letters for words or change the spellings slightly” – that’s brilliant. I presume CCP wants real ID not to monitor all traffic in real time, but to be able to track someone down after the fact if someone triggers one of their keyword filters (then treat them to some CCP hospitality, I would guess…). I read elsewhere that, as long as the first and last letters of a word are in the right place, and the number of letters is correct, even if the “inside” letters are jumbled beyond recognition, the human brain can still read it and comprehend it. I assume this would beat any filter available today. But I think the reader’s English skills need to be at a certain level. Might be worth trying for people in China like BI Yantao. And Michelle (occasional visitor on this blog) introduced me to T1be7 as a way to spell you-know-where. Ahhh, if I was religious, I’d say praise Him for the elasticity of the human brain; alas, I’ll have to give a shout out to evolution instead 🙂

  45. kevinnolongerinpudong
    November 1st, 2008 at 07:21 | #45

    Oh please stop spreading cold war propaganda… we all know that the internet is free and open in china, and that it is much better and happier to live in china than in america, which is one the verge of collapse. in contrast, china has poison milk and eggs and toys, but it is truly the future and will stay that way under the wise guidance of the party and their internet guidance. I just want to invest in the glorious shanghai stock market, and seriously nothing makes me feel more shameful than race traitors spreading false rumors about “internet censorship.” I honestly can access people.com.cn anytime that i want. spank you very much.

  46. Jerry
    November 1st, 2008 at 08:14 | #46

    @kevinnolongerinpudong #45

    Kevin, I am most happy to know that propaganda is alive and well in China. Thanks for the confirmation. That said, I like your tongue-in-cheek approach. At least, I hope it is a tongue-in-cheek approach. ::LOL::

    China is so lucky to have a government which is benevolently instituting “Operation Throttle the Chinese People”. Oh, excuse me, I meant “Operation Golden Shield”.

    And the Shanghai Stock Exchange Composite Index which has gloriously lost 70% in the last year compared to 30% down for the DJIA. Those damned lying American dogs at Bloomberg and their damned contrived propaganda.

    Oh, thanks for mentioning china.org.cn and how lucky we are to know the real story, rather than contrived American propaganda and drivel.

    OK, enough of my satire. Shame on me!

  47. TommyBahamas
    November 1st, 2008 at 09:59 | #47


    Hmm, sncie you mnetoined it, why not gvie it a tyr? Whehter its eovluiton or itnellgient dsegisn, hwoveer you sipn it, the hmuan biran is one azmanig piece of wrok.

  48. Jerry
    November 1st, 2008 at 10:24 | #48

    @TommyBahamas #47
    @Steve #30
    @S.K. Cheung #44

    You are too much, Tommy. Do you also do Canadian RX-Meds spam email?

    As Steve and SK found out, you now know why my friends at msn.com and hotmail.com work very hard and creatively trying to keep up with all the spammers trying to beat their spam filters.

    Just a little warning. Remind your friend on the other end of the obfuscated email to look in his/her junk/spam folder. Those guys at msn.com, MS Outlook, MS Research, yahoo.com and google.com are pretty good at trapping most of the junk/spam. And they may misinterpret your email as spam. They are continually updating their filters. Which probably means that the Chinese government, in its ever overarching and benevolent desire to protect its citizens, probably is working on this, too. Similar to Mike Howard at MS SWI and David LeBlanc at MS Office who are constantly working on MS Updates to prevent code exploits.

  49. Raj
    November 1st, 2008 at 12:24 | #49

    Jim, while their government blows so hard, it has not invaded another country under false WMD pretext – unlike ours.

    Charles, stop trying to make excuses by bringing up false comparisons. No one is saying America under Bush is wonderful, but that doesn’t in any respect justify what happens in other countries. If someone comes on here and says China is more violent and a threat to global security than the US under Bush, ok then you can bring up Iraq. But “Iraq! Iraq!” is not a valid counter-argument to any criticism of the CCP/Chinese government/China.


    kevin, great post as always.

  50. bt
    November 1st, 2008 at 12:34 | #50

    So agree with Raj!!
    This is just a diversion and deny tactics.
    This post has been started by a Chinese man (not a ‘evil conspirationnal westerner’), and as usual it finished as a ‘look how the West is bad’ contest. Truly depressing …

  51. bt
    November 1st, 2008 at 12:42 | #51

    I wonder who are the real Patriots … those who take risks to improve what they think will be better to their country, or those who are confortably sat in the West protected by Freedom of Speech and spend their day to deny and spit on their own country.

  52. Steve
    November 1st, 2008 at 13:53 | #52

    OmmytayAhamasbay, eryvay everclay!

  53. Yantao
    November 2nd, 2008 at 00:39 | #53

    To be fair, there are two sides to the stroy. On the one hand, China has made vast progress in freedom of speech in recent years. This is a fact I will accept without hesitation. On the other hand, China lags far behind what the majority of the Chinese people are expecting. Of course, the width of the gap varies depending on who you are and what you want. For example, as a communication researcher, I need to browse some foreign websites no matter how sensitive they are to the Chinese authorities. Also, my articles sometimes contain “politically sensitive” contents, and it is hard or impossible to get published freely. Furthermore, from the perspectives of the westerners and those Chinese people who have lived in the west world for some time, China certainly is far behind in terms of freedom of speech.

  54. Steve
    November 2nd, 2008 at 01:06 | #54

    Yantao~ I’m glad freedom of speech has improved in recent years. Where do you see the greatest improvements in say… the last five years?

    When I was there, I noticed there was greater freedom of speech the further I was from Beijing. Is it still like that or have things evened out? There are obviously specific subjects that are taboo. Are there any general subjects that also fall under this category? How do you know whether what you write will be accepted or if it will fall under that “all-inclusive” category of “state secrets” or “hurting the Chinese people”? It has always seemed very arbitrary to me.

  55. Jerry
    November 2nd, 2008 at 01:29 | #55

    @Raj #49
    @bt #50, 51

    Raj and bt, I understand your concern. I could go into Charles’ proclivity for rabid remarks, but I decline to do so for now.

    I don’t like the injustice of the lack of free speech in China (in comparison to the US). I also don’t like my country’s invasion of Iraq. Charles is equivocating and by doing so, actually avoids addressing either issue. Too bad! But it is a free country. At least the US is a free country.

    Don’t be depressed, bt.

    I wonder who are the real Patriots … those who take risks to improve what they think will be better to their country, or those who are confortably sat in the West protected by Freedom of Speech and spend their day to deny and spit on their own country.

    The Patriots play in the NFL and have won three Super Bowls. 😀 OK, I am kidding. I just couldn’t resist. “Patriot” is a loaded, emotionally charged word. I tend to avoid it. It is wonderful that our Constitution allows “freedom of speech” in the US. Charles has that right, I have that right, and so do both of you, at least in the US.

  56. Yantao
    November 2nd, 2008 at 03:20 | #56


    I am glad you are interested in Chinese issues, but it seems to me you don’t know China well.

    I posted this article to call for more freedom of speech, but your questions made me defend China!

    Of course, there are taboos in China, and of course, that “all-inclusive” category of “state secrets” exists in China. But, does this justify the conclusion that China hasn’t made any progress in this field?

    I am so happy you have found places where you can enjoy “greater freedom of speech” than Beijing (or China). Enjoy it!

  57. Steve
    November 2nd, 2008 at 04:06 | #57

    Yantao, I think you misunderstood my question. I was asking you to describe the positive changes, not saying they didn’t exist. I’ve only been to China once in the last five years so my knowledge is out of date and I wanted to take advantage of your experience to fill us all in.

    I also don’t want you to get into any trouble for informing us and wondered how you made that judgement. I wasn’t trying to put you on the defensive. You’re in a much better position to inform me than I am in to inform you.

  58. S.K. Cheung
    November 2nd, 2008 at 04:27 | #58

    To TommyB #47:
    that’s a great one!

  59. S.K. Cheung
    November 2nd, 2008 at 04:29 | #59

    To Raj #49:
    praise Him for that. I’ve been trying to tell Charles that as well now for several months, after he came up with his “goose and gander” analogies on another thread a while back. Alas, rather ineffective thus far.

  60. S.K. Cheung
    November 2nd, 2008 at 04:35 | #60

    To Steve the cipher #52:
    hey, shouldn’t the last word of your transmission read “levercay”? Or maybe I’m just crappy at code. 🙂

  61. Jerry
    November 2nd, 2008 at 04:58 | #61

    @S.K. Cheung #60
    @Steve #52

    SK, I think Steve in #52 is writing in “pig Latin”. I would go with “eryvay everclay”. I think you break on the first vowel or first syllable. Thus cl-ever becomes “everclay” IIRC. 😀

    Like this is important? 😀 LMAO

  62. Yantao
    November 2nd, 2008 at 05:07 | #62


    I feel sorry for misunderstanding you. This is my first time to express myself in this kind of situation. Please forgive me for my poor English.

    Generally, we enjoy a greater extent of freedom of speech than years ago. Today people can post articles online to criticise a specific governmental sector, a specific official or a local government. But, as you have observed, there are taboos. It is far from feedom of speech.

    In March this year, three netizens were detained for “insulting” the CCP leader of Gaotang County, Shandong Province. These three people only published some critical sentences on tieba.baidu.com.
    The incident triggered explosive criticism of the official. In late March, this CCP leader was relieved of his post.

  63. S.K. Cheung
    November 2nd, 2008 at 06:03 | #63

    To Jerry:
    understood. I thought he was taking the first letter, moving it to the end, and adding “ay”…I guess I’m not ready for cracking Enigma…which puts me at least 65 years behind the curve.

  64. Jerry
    November 2nd, 2008 at 06:07 | #64

    @Yantao #62

    Yantao, no need to apologize! This is why I love FM. It is an opportunity to learn to communicate across our language, social and cultural barriers. I admire you for your willingness to risk a lot just communicating with us.

    Miscommunications and misunderstandings will happen. And learning is never in a straight line.

    Others here and myself speak about America’s vaunted “freedom of speech”. It has a flip side, a somewhat darker side. It also includes the “freedom to speak like an idiot”. At the risk of a little frivolity here, I saw this today in the SeattlePI online. Enjoy! There is a link to a video below.

    Copied from http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/national/1120ap_odd_halloween_politics.html

    Last updated November 1, 2008 1:29 p.m. PT

    Mich. woman: Supporting Obama? No treats for you


    GROSSE POINTE FARMS, Mich. — A suburban Detroit woman has decided to scare up the vote among neighborhood children by just offering treats to John McCain supporters.

    Shirley Nagel of Grosse Pointe Farms, Mich., handed out candy Friday only to those who shared her support for the Republican presidential candidate and his running mate Sarah Palin. Others were turned away empty-handed.

    TV station WJBK says a sign outside Nagel’s house warned: “No handouts for Obama supporters, liars, tricksters or kids of supporters.”

    Nagel calls Democrat Barack Obama “scary.” When asked about children who were turned away empty-handed and crying, she said: “Oh well. Everybody has a choice.”

    Fax and phone messages left at numbers for Nagel were not returned.

    Information from: WJBK-TV, http://www.fox2detroit.com

    Yes, Yantao, it appears that this woman is punishing kids for being born to parents who support Barack Obama. Only in the USA, I hope. 😀

  65. S.K. Cheung
    November 2nd, 2008 at 06:08 | #65

    To Yantao:
    thanks for the insight. In Canada, seldom do I think a reasonable person would bump up against the limits of freedom of speech to which we’re availed. As a result, Canadians aren’t often clamoring for more such freedoms. But as Steve asked, compared to what you have now, and recalling how much you had 5 years ago, how much more freedom of speech would you or reasonable PRC citizens want? And in what form would you like those freedoms to take?

  66. Yantao
    November 2nd, 2008 at 08:02 | #66


    You are great to say “It is an opportunity to learn to communicate across our language, social and cultural barriers”. I will take this opportunity to enlarge my horizon and be more open-minded.

    @S.K. Cheung

    You asked very good questions. Today in China, the first problem that the people worry about is corruption. Many people, including me, believe freedom of speech can help curb corruption, encourage/compell the government/officials to ‘serve the people” as they promised.

    Also, too many business people here are only interested in making profits, by any means. If we enjoy more freedom of speech, they will be put under the public scrutiny.

    Thirdly, the wealth gap is widening so fast in China. The marginalised has no reliable channels to voice their hardships and expectations. In this case, they have to turn to violence. You know the term “the collective unrest” used by the Chinese government? An article published in 2005 said “There has been a 30 percent rise in collective riots in China in recent years”.

  67. Hongkonger
    November 2nd, 2008 at 08:09 | #67

    How are you doing Steve with your intro to Noam Chomsky’s world, a saturday dedicated to Jerry, as you put it?

    I am not trying to be smart here, god knows it was a bad day on the celestrial assembly line when I was being manufactured. In any case, it seems pompous for those merely born in better circumstances to keep going on about those who aren’t. As a kid, my Mom forbade me to laugh at anyone who were physically handicapped and to show kindness to classmates with tattered uniforms, shoes and school books etc. Basic decency is actually more important than being right, IMHO.

    @Jerry, I’ve been called names and mocked at by friends and foes for daring to ask questions. It is amazing how closeminded most people are. It is great to find folks like you, Steve, Allen, RMBWhat and SKC to shoot the breeze, as it were, and exchange ideas and POVs.

  68. S.K. Cheung
    November 2nd, 2008 at 09:24 | #68

    To Yantao:
    if I may boil it down, curbing corruption and allowing public scrutiny seem akin to accountability. And it makes sense that you would need freedom of speech (or at least the freedom to ask tough questions) in order to promote accountability. However, those who are to be held accountable are also in control of your freedoms. So it’s a catch 22. It would take a very selfless person (or one who is purer than the driven snow) to grant you the freedom to better enforce their accountability. I hope those individuals exist within the CCP, and may one day percolate to the top.

  69. Jerry
    November 2nd, 2008 at 10:05 | #69

    @Hongkonger #67

    Thanks for the kind words, HKer. Nonetheless, I am prone to sarcasm and cynicism at times. If I ever cross the line, please feel free to let me know.

    “I’ve been called names and mocked at by friends and foes for daring to ask questions.” God knows what they would have done with me. Some friends! I am always questioning. It is one of my “raisons d’etre”. I can’t imagine life without questions and curiosities. How boring, how miserable.

    I love Einstein’s quote about curiosity and questioning. I have used this at FM at least once before.

    The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing. One cannot help but be in awe when he contemplates the mysteries of eternity, of life, of the marvelous structure of reality. It is enough if one tries merely to comprehend a little of this mystery every day. Never lose a holy curiosity.

    Albert Einstein

    US (German-born) physicist (1879 – 1955)

    I hope Steve finds what he wants in Chomsky. I hope Steve dedicated the day to himself, not me. I am so grateful for the giants who allow us to stand on their shoulders. I love their thought-provoking writing and words. I love how they sharpen my questions and curiosities. I love learning and expanding my view of the big picture. And, IMHO, that is how the world progresses.

  70. Hongkonger
    November 2nd, 2008 at 12:41 | #70

    “a very selfless person (or one who is purer than the driven snow) to grant you the freedom to better enforce their accountability. I hope those individuals exist within the CCP, and may one day percolate to the top.”


    I want to believe there are.

    朱镕基,The former Premier of the People’s Republic of China (1998 to 2003) was such a man and CCP leader. Zhu was also widely known for his tasteful humour. Zhu provided a novel pragmatism and hard work ethic in the government and party leadership increasingly infested by corruption, and as a result gained great popularity with the Chinese public.

  71. bt
    November 2nd, 2008 at 16:27 | #71

    @ChinkTalk # 32, 33
    Excuse me, but i really don’t understand the point of quoting a man who has fought and paid a high price for Freedom of Speech to what it seems to me is a try to equivocate the limitations of Freedom of Speech here or there. Maybe i misunderstood your point.
    The quotation has very little to do with Freedom of Speech, but with the existence of god.
    It sometimes really seems to me that some people are here more to express their disdain of their own country than discussing ‘Chinese affairs’. That’s a disservice for everybody. And i never saw anybody here saying that ‘Western’ countries were perfect places.

    @Jerry # 55
    Funny reply, I love that, haha. I made a mistake, i should have wrote “patriots”. Mine.
    And excuse me for using emotionally charged words.

    @Bi Yantao
    You know, basically we agree on everything.
    I have never been a big fan of the ‘Chinese Characteristics’. I don’t think people all over the world are so interested in ideologies, they just want a fair and decent life.
    After, if Chinese people tend to prefer a Singapore-styled or a USA-styled government, i would say that it’s not my business. As long as they are happy with that and don’t engage tough conflicts with other countries, that’s ok for me.
    It is obvious that the life of the people in the PRC tremendously improved in the last 30 years.
    And compared to the situation of political freedoms before, it is way much better nowadays.

    However, it also appeared to me that corruption and shameless attitudes were a great concern for a lot of Chinese people. After, if it’s getting better or worst than before, i don’t live in the PRC long enough to be able to make my opinion.
    “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely” … Personally, i don’t think waiting for “mr. good leader” is a good strategy. Moreover, plenty of good guys can be subverted and isolated by the political system as a whole.
    Make them accountable by any ways, and they will have to work for the people. If they refuse or find another way to lock the things, the people will find another way to express things and eventually they might fall.

  72. ChinkTalk
    November 2nd, 2008 at 18:29 | #72

    bt – Voltaire was laughing at human’s fickleness. The quotation has nothing to do with God.

    Notice that I have never attacked anybody personally or ridicule someone because I disagree with that person’s point of view. I do welcome your opinions on my comments.

    So far I am not convinced I am wrong in my assessments.

  73. Raj
    November 2nd, 2008 at 19:49 | #73

    @ 59

    S.K. Cheung, I’m sure it’s futile, but at the least people like him need to be challenged so as to reduce his credibility amongst other posters. One would hope no one buys into those sorts of tactics, but some do – they needed to be reminded/told why it’s nonsense.

    @ 68

    The problem at the moment is the way leaders are selected. If someone like Hu can appoint his successor (directly or indirectly) and that keeps happening you will get very like-minded people following on after each other. The only way to get around that is to hope that someone can “trick” their sponsors by not doing or saything anything controversial to get them locked out, or that factional fighting leads to compromise candidates who would tolerate more change than a straight conservative.

    The factional nature of the CCP means that real change may come about while we are still alive. There may be relatively few democrats out there, but there is enough scope that one day forward-thinking people could get to the top. The question is whether it would come out of “moderates” gaining sufficient power within the CCP, or as a result of some crisis that showed the old methods of control and restriction were a failure. One can only hope for the former, but if the conservatives cling on the latter could happen.

  74. bt
    November 2nd, 2008 at 20:10 | #74

    @ChinkTalk #72

    My deepest apologies if you feel offended. I am Sincere.
    Please notice that i also wrote that i might misunderstood. You are also welcome to give any comments.

    Concerning the quotation, in my understanding (I don’t have the pretension to completely master the thoughts of Voltaire) Voltaire was a notorious Deist.
    The “Epître à l’auteur du livre des Trois imposteurs” is a reply to an anonymous book (“Traité des trois imposteurs” – “The Treatise of the Three Impostors”) which was a violent attack against religion.
    If you consider the quotation in the text, it is:

    Si les cieux, dépouillés de son empreinte auguste,
    Pouvaient cesser jamais de le manifester,
    Si Dieu n’existait pas, il faudrait l’inventer.
    Que le sage l’annonce, et que les rois le craignent.
    Rois, si vous m’opprimez, si vos grandeurs dédaignent
    Les pleurs de l’innocent que vous faites couler,
    Mon vengeur est au ciel: apprenez à trembler.
    Tel est au moins le fruit d’une utile croyance.

    (I found the text and a translation in English here: .http://www.whitman.edu/VSA/trois.imposteurs.html)
    Moreover, he has requoted himself in a letter to the king of Prussia:
    “”Si Dieu n’existait pas, il faudrait l’inventer.” Mais toute la nature nous crie qu’il existe; qu’il y a une intelligence suprême, un pouvoir immense, un ordre admirable, et tout nous instruit de notre dépendance.”

    So, i must disagree with you at this point – it has a lot to do with God.
    As well as human’s fickleness, i must admit, that he always fought against.

    Concerning comments # 32, 33, i believe everybody here would agree that nothing is perfect and that the fight for “Freedom of Speech” is endless. We must be vigilant. Nothing is granted forever.
    However, I maintain that the situation in the ‘West’ and in the PRC are far from being equivalent.
    Moreover, this discussion was initiated by a Chinese gentlemen about the possibility of real-name registration implementation in the PRC for Netizens.

  75. Charles Liu
    November 2nd, 2008 at 20:17 | #75

    Yantao @56, ” [you] made me defend China!”. I absolutely agree with your sentiment towards Steve’s diatribe. I’m not from PRC and I felt the need to drag him down from his high horse.

    You and 1.3 billion Chinese are basically voiceless in our society, and the ugly anti-China stuff you see here is actually the norm. The voices of reason congragates FM precisely is because it is less valued elswhere.

    For example I basically post the same style of coment, along the same line of belief and no profanity, but on PKD they get me banned. But on FM I find echos of agreement. Forgive me I’m gonna boycott PKD and hang out here.

  76. Charles Liu
    November 2nd, 2008 at 20:23 | #76

    bt, please see comment 12 – I was able to create a blog account in China without any “real-name registration”.

  77. Charles Liu
    November 2nd, 2008 at 20:30 | #77

    I meant Jim’s diatribe, forgive me.

  78. bt
    November 2nd, 2008 at 20:45 | #78

    @Charles Liu # 76

    I believe you, don’t worry. You were able to open a blog on Sina without the real-name registration.
    That doesn’t mean that it is always possible, as Mr. Bi Yantao pointed it for the Tianya platform.
    As i said before, we will see in the future if the final idea is to ban Netizens from expressing their opinion anonymously.

    Concerning the ‘anti-China crowd who is the norm’, I let you full responsible of your comments. Everybody is free to express himself, the readers of the blog will make their own opinion.

  79. ChinkTalk
    November 2nd, 2008 at 22:38 | #79

    bt –

    Si Dieu n’existait pas, il faudrait l’inventer.
    Que le sage l’annonce, et que les rois le craignent.
    Rois, si vous m’opprimez, si vos grandeurs dédaignent
    Les pleurs de l’innocent que vous faites couler,
    Mon vengeur est au ciel: apprenez à trembler.
    Tel est au moins le fruit d’une utile croyance.

    In the old days, when royalty is akin to deity, attacking either could easily land you in front of the guillotine. To me, my intepretation of the above passage is that the powerful (sage, rois) uses the position of deity which could be created by humans to justify the royalty’s existence, in turn justifies the powers’ oppressions – the tears from the innocent. In demanding the people show deference to deity the royalties themselves must demonstrate “craigne”. “Tel est au moins le fruit d’une utile croyance” – idiot humans fearing something they have created – there is something beneficial to this “belief” thing after all.

    “”Si Dieu n’existait pas, il faudrait l’inventer.” Mais toute la nature nous crie qu’il existe; qu’il y a une intelligence suprême, un pouvoir immense, un ordre admirable, et tout nous instruit de notre dépendance.”

    “tout nous instruit de notre dépendance” – everybody tells us that this supreme being, all powerful, exists, like royalty, we are taught to depend on it.

    These are my intepretations, I could be wrong, to err is human. Afterall, I like to think of myself as a human being.

  80. November 2nd, 2008 at 23:34 | #80

    @Charles Liu – Do 1.3 billion Chinese citizens live in western countries? Or do Chinese citizens constitute a small proportion of the ethnic Chinese population of western countries and is this the reason why Chinese citizens do not have much of a voice in comparison to other minorities in western countries?

    Let me put this plain, you may not be from the PRC, but you feel the need not only to “drag” Steve from his “high horse”, but also support the CCP position on Tibet, Taiwan, Tiananmen, democracy, human rights, religion, etc. – and have started several blogs on this theme. I do not think your opinion can be as neutral as you make out. Certainly were a writer of five different blogs all of which were hyper-critical of the Chinese government to come here and say that a stridently pro-Beijing commentator made even him feel like criticising the CCP you would not take this very seriously.

    @Yantao – With the greatest respect, I do not think that China has made ‘vast progress’ in the freedom of speech in recent years. Certainly there was a world of difference between 1979 and 1999, but between 2003 and 2007 there was essentially no change that I could notice. Websites remained blocked, the news remained muzzled, change was put on hold until the Olympics. When they came the Olympics brought about a degree of loosening, but part of that loosening has been taken away already, as you note in your piece.

  81. bt
    November 2nd, 2008 at 23:48 | #81

    @ChinkTalk #79

    “In the old days, when royalty is akin to deity, attacking either could easily land you in front of the guillotine.”
    Agree (BTW, just a small detail, but guillotine has been developed during the French Revolution, not during the Old Regime, and believe it or not it was to make the death penalty more “humane”).
    He was truly believing in God, and above all as a social cement for the good work of the society as a whole. In order to make kings following the needs of the people, they should be made accountable of something. In his opinion, the fear of God taking revenge in case of misconducts and sufferings applied to the innocents (common people) was sufficient.
    To my understanding, he was not a ‘democrat’, in the modern acceptance of the word.He tried to apply this theory of ‘Enlightened Despotism’ in Berlin, but failed. He then reached the conclusion that great ideas doesn’t work, and finished his life trying to modestly apply his ideas in a small domain.

    ““tout nous instruit de notre dépendance” – everybody tells us that this supreme being, all powerful, exists, like royalty, we are taught to depend on it.”. Rather, “everything around us tell us that such a power (God) exists”. IMHO, ‘depend’ here has to be taken in the sense of ‘global harmony’ of the world, that you are part of something well organized by God, not that you must obey blindfully to the powerful.

    BTW, i don’t know where you are from (Chinese-Canadian from BC?), but your level of French truly impress. That would be a super interesting discussion, maybe not here not now, to discuss the similarities/differences between eastern (esp. Confucianism) and western philosophies. IMO, it is just the same things expressed differently.

  82. bt
    November 3rd, 2008 at 00:12 | #82

    @FOARP # 80

    Anyway, we have no way to know who do this and that and for which agenda.
    Let’s just assume that everybody can express himself, and that the readers will determine who is sincere and who is not.
    For the change in the PRC between 2003 and 2007, well we don’t know so well i think. A lot of things are ‘underground’ in PRC. The society might change, without apparent moves from ‘above’.

  83. Hongkonger
    November 3rd, 2008 at 00:21 | #83

    “If someone like Hu can appoint his successor (directly or indirectly) and that keeps happening you will get very like-minded people following on after each other.”

    Your logical assumptions and fear is valid but may not necessarily come to past . Some people say to rely on logic alone is spiritual laziness. Please make no mistake, I am not talking about religious spirituality here, because I don’t know much about that. But just the good old fashion holistic approach.

    OK, for more than a couple centuries now, western-style systemic governance have been the celebrated paradigm. It is very successful in the West. Nevertheless, systems, is no guarantee for good governance. Nothing is. Are the odds better? Sometimes yes, sometimes, not so.

    Ancient civilisations were forever awaiting their own brands of savior kings – sh*t always happen. Hence, this noble vacancy is always opened all the time, somewhere in the world, throughout human history. The immutable law of entropy and regeneration is consistent regardless of human-social paradigms.
    Hence ideologies with vaunted promises continue to flourish, and from generation to genration, the ruling elites continue to laugh all the way to the banks.

    Since “savior” Mao declared China’s “resurrection,” we’ve had very different leaders succeeding Mao, and they seem to be progressively better as a whole.

    Well, I have a good buddy, a diehard Maoist, who’d disagree with me., though. He believes that Mao had saved China from 40 years of air pollution, environmental degradation, cultural pollution, and worst of all, delayed the insatiable gree resulting in human prostitution of capitalism – ” if the price is right, fxxk the human pride” kinda thing, for example. No, I am not a fan of Mao, but sometimes when I look around – at the suffering rivers, the living jungles for dead skyscrapers and the deadlier biofuel-guzzling vehicles, I do wonder if my buddy ain’t at least half right, half of the time.

  84. Leo
    November 3rd, 2008 at 00:29 | #84

    What the f*** are people talking about here? I am a regular visitor and commentator to Tianya and I have never encountered whatever described here!

  85. TommyBahamas
    November 3rd, 2008 at 00:52 | #85

    Welcome to Fool’s Mountain, Leo.

    We are talking about China, the world. We are trying to understand others and ourselves. I am trying to free my mind, entertaining the ideal of moving a few cultural pebbles from the geopolitical mountain in the process. It’s educational, it’s fun. Come make friends and refuse not the wisdom of your fellow human beings or perceived nemesises.

  86. Yantao
    November 3rd, 2008 at 01:01 | #86

    Since September 2002 I have focused on communication and media studies, advocating and defending freedom of speech in China. Here is a list of part of my essays in print media, appealing for free press .


    But please be noted, as a Chinese, I call for media reform to improve the situation in China, to build China stronger.

  87. bt
    November 3rd, 2008 at 01:34 | #87

    @Hongkonger #83

    Yes, Mao, a complicated man. Whether he was good, bad, or a mixture of the two, History will be the judge. What would have happened if Jiang won the civil war, we will never know.

    It’s funny to notice that the nostalgia for the communist period also occur in Europe. The East Germans happily destroyed their Berlin wall, and nowadays some of them turns ‘Ostalgic’ (East nostalgic).
    I guess it is the human nature, you tend to forget the hard times and to remember what was better (real or perceived) in those times.
    When the cat is not there, there is more mice 🙂

  88. Yantao
    November 3rd, 2008 at 01:54 | #88

    @ Leo #84

    I logged onto Tianya today from China, only finding the registration requirements remains the same as I encountered the other day.

    Do you log onto Tianya in China or outside China? Are you a veteran user of Tianya? When I tried to register with Tianya as a new user, I encountered the new requirements. I don’t think Tianya treats us differently.

    @ All

    I have taken a photo of the registration page of Tianya, but who can help me upload it here, if necessasry?

    Also, I must make it very clear that I have never blamed Tianya for this. On the contrary, I sympathize with Tianya and wish it good luck.

  89. Charles Liu
    November 3rd, 2008 at 02:32 | #89

    bt, “For the change in the PRC between 2003 and 2007, well we don’t know so well i think.” – exactely, but for those who are ideologically entrenched and endoctrinated (I know it happens in America), they’ll bindly disagree eventhou they have no knowledge.

    BTW, here’s a paper written by a Stanford professor on the progress China has made:


  90. S.K. Cheung
    November 3rd, 2008 at 02:57 | #90

    Interesting link. He advocates increased GDP, education, and urbanization as the pillars for increased democratization. Not unlike what many have suggested on this site. And his $8K per capita GDP threshold seems similar to what Buxi had long quoted, if memory serves.

    Hey, if he’s right, and Chinese will be partly free in 2015, and full-on free in 2025, that’s great news. However, I didn’t see where he defines partially free and fully free. I hope partially free is not the same as a little bit pregnant (ie there ain’t no such thing). And even if you’re partially free and such a thing exists, what about the other parts?

  91. Wukailong
    November 3rd, 2008 at 03:06 | #91

    “I was able to create a blog account in China without any “real-name registration”.”

    I think this depends on how they do the filtering (which happens on all blog services). Sina has people reading the entries and deciding if they are OK or not, probably not entry by entry, but rather by some keywords. I know this because someone posted an English entry and was told that the administrator needed some time to read it before it could appear…

    Tianya probably doesn’t do any filtering like that, but instead relies on people registering their full names and contact information, so they won’t write anything bad. 😉

  92. Charles Liu
    November 3rd, 2008 at 03:12 | #92

    Yantao, there’s another one you can register account withpout any personal info: blog.163.com.

    The sooner Chinese blogger abandon blogs that require real name registration, the sooner the blog sites like Tinaya will realize it’s not gonna work. This is again capitalism at its best.

  93. Charles Liu
    November 3rd, 2008 at 03:17 | #93

    SK, “free-but” is everywhere. We Americans are free, but there’s wiretap, AT&T listening posts, FISA rewrite, Patriot Act… I’m free to b!tch, but as soon as I do anything about it, it’s hanging upside down by my balls at Gitmo.

    Is it really *that* different than China? There are plenty of political activists in China that are not arrested (for reference see the rural land reform blogpost in Letters), then again they ain’t on the take from the NED/US State Dept. like Hu Jia.

  94. Hongkonger
    November 3rd, 2008 at 03:32 | #94

    bt #87

    History will be the judge….
    Like I said, I am not my friend, the Maoist, still at 53. Nevertheless, I believe history, if the Chnese peasants have any say, will be kind to Mao.
    If Jiang had won, methinks his regime would have massacred a lot more (Commies) Chinese. And with post worldwar impoverished KMT being forced to continue engagement in civil war, with the oppressed peasants, the opportunistic factional warlords going whichever the wind blows, cahooting with stronger powers, domestic landlords and foreign imperialists, together with the years of widespread onsets of famines and earthquakes, I think the battered China would’ve been reduced to be a very small country today. The population of China would be a lot smaller, and the triumph of this year’s Beijing Olympics would still for decades to come an impossible dream. And god knows if Taiwan would’ve remained Formosa Island all those years, or given another name, and under what government?
    Well, anyway, it’s all useless speculation. So, since many, (i.e.not all) in china choose to believe or accept the 70% positives and 30% negatives attribution to Mao, who am I, one who was born far away from it all but still loves China, and damn proud of my heritage, to say otherwise?

  95. Wukailong
    November 3rd, 2008 at 03:33 | #95

    “Is it really *that* different than China? There are plenty of political activists in China that are not arrested (for reference see the rural land reform blogpost in Letters), then again they ain’t on the take from the NED/US State Dept. like Hu Jia.”

    Yes, I think it makes a lot of difference. My experience with the US is limited (4 months), and it might be more authoritarian than some European countries (though I doubt it), but having experience with both China and Europe, I have to say the difference is indeed huge. I never watch out in the same way that I do in Europe, and I’ve seen firsthand what happens to members of FLG who hand out leaflets (of course FLG is nonsense, but still).

    On the other hand, I think Yantao is right on growing freedom of the press here (China). It fits the experiences of several friends of mine.

    I used to think differences between the West and China were cosmetic and it was mostly propaganda from the West, before I went to China (many people read Chomsky’s theoretical writings and think the same). Life on the ground is quite different from the view above.

  96. bt
    November 3rd, 2008 at 03:36 | #96

    @Charles Liu, S. K. Cheung # 89, 90

    Thanks for the link. Very interesting. I think he is using the data from the Freedom House organization.
    We will see in the future if the prediction is accurate … the answer lies in the Chinese people themselves.

    In the sale order of ideas, I love the Prof. Hans Rosling’s Gapminder presentation about the world development: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RUwS1uAdUcI
    It tends to confirm the ‘rise of the rest’ theory and the link between education, health and development.
    Please also notice the ‘abnormal’ (no offense) behavior of the PRC (@ 11’40) during the Mao period, and the come back into mainstream during the Deng period.

  97. Wukailong
    November 3rd, 2008 at 03:37 | #97

    Hongkonger: “If Jiang had won, methinks his regime would have massacred a lot more (Commies) Chinese. And with post worldwar impoverished KMT being forced to continue engagement in civil war, with the opportunistic factional warlords going whichever the wind blows, cahooting with stronger powers, domestic and foreign, together with the years of widespread famines and earthquakes, I think China would be a very small country today. And god knows if Taiwan would’ve remained Formosa Island all those years, or given another name, and under what government?”

    Might’ve… 😉 Of course we don’t know, and it might be like that. The Nationalists and the Communists somehow helped each other though, and I’m still impressed by the story of how a small elite army of 10000 Nationalist soldiers could just defeat the local warlord in Guangzhou, walk out of it and proceed to take half of China in a relatively short time. That’s as impressive as the Long March.

  98. November 3rd, 2008 at 03:45 | #98


    I can upload the picture for you.

  99. S.K. Cheung
    November 3rd, 2008 at 03:50 | #99

    To Charles:
    I think most reasonable people would agree that most freedoms are not absolute, and that limits are warranted, and perhaps even necessary. So as with most things, it’s a matter of degree. Yes, in the US, you’re free to bitch. And whatever you bitch about, you can share with others, like on this blog. If in China you can bitch, but can’t share it with others owing to censorship, is that “the same”? To me, no.

    In the US, you can do something about your displeasures without the all-inclusive visit to Cuba; but if you break the law, then if not Gitmo, you would get the inside of an 8X10, and deservedly so. And as long as the laws that govern your freedoms are reasonable, I see no problem with that. You might say: “in China, if you bitch about CCP, you get thrown in jail, because you’re breaking the law, so it’s no less reasonable…” (I don’t know if there is actually such a law; it’s just a supposition), then it comes down to an evaluation of the “reasonable-ness” of each country’s laws. But if you ask “Is it really *that* different than China?”, my answer is hell yeah; if your’s isn’t, that’s your prerogative. As I repeatedly say, whatever floats your boat…

    But since it was your link, my question remains….if “freedom” is a stick that you can pee on, what does it take to get a result that says “partial”. And with such a result, what would it mean?

    And yet again wrt #93, I’d like to point out that whatever shortcomings exist in the US or any other nation on this planet or other planets, they do not change the shortcomings that exist in China, which is the topic of this thread, and the basis for this blog (give or take some moving of mountains).

  100. bt
    November 3rd, 2008 at 03:54 | #100

    @Hongkonger # 94
    Political-fiction … however, i agree on your points, it’s plausible.
    “So, since many, i.e. not all, in China choose to believe or accept the 70% positives and 30% negatives attribution to Mao, I am likewise absolutely fine with that official settlement.”
    Well, that’s the problem somewhere … 70/30 case settled, no discussion. period. That’s a political decision, not a historical one. Anyway, time will tell.

    @Wukailong # 95
    Agree on all. Like you, i have a limited experience of USA, and i also doubt that it is more authoritarian than the countries of our beloved Europe (btw, Prof. Rosling is really Sweden at its best 🙂 ).
    “Life on the ground is quite different from the view above” … true, so true …

  101. Wukailong
    November 3rd, 2008 at 03:56 | #101

    @SKC: “(I don’t know if there is actually such a law; it’s just a supposition)”

    I think it’s in the constitution, although they might use other laws:

    “Sabotage of the socialist system by any organization or individual is prohibited.” (from Article 1)


  102. Hongkonger
    November 3rd, 2008 at 04:21 | #102

    @ WKL , bt and SKC,

    #100, “That’s a political decision, not a historical one. Anyway, time will tell.”

    Touche` 🙂

    “Life on the ground is quite different from the view above” … true, so true …

    If I formed my impression of America based on what the media says, I’d think America is over run with homeless folks nowadays, where gun crimes and civil law suits, civil unrest and racial tensions would be escalating. Going through airport security would be a hellish nightmare, with the possiblity of being a victim of rendition, and easily finds myself transported outside of US territory to be tortured and interrogated till I confessed, blah blah blah…Just a plagerised thriller fiction, of course

    Here’s another plagerised thriller fiction: “in the US, you’re free to bitch. ..in China you can’t bitch ” Um, well, true, maybe like, 30 years ago. I can bitch about my British boss to my colleagues, which we all do in my firm, but if I did it to his face or organosed a managerial/general staff strike, I’ll quickly find myself doing laundry, house chores and taking long introspective walks, until I find a new employment.

    “The Nationalists and the Communists somehow helped each other ”

    Oh, yes, they did. As they say, there are no everlasting friends nor foes in politics.”

  103. Bob
    November 3rd, 2008 at 04:29 | #103

    I am generally not a fan of internet censorship. But if you are getting used to it, it’s not really a big deal. When in Rome, do as the Romans do. The pain experienced by expats is really some small inconvenience, considering all perks they get from working in China.

    A more serious issue IMO is the lack of variety in food in the U.S. After indulging myself for a few weeks in China every year, I always feel depressed when I return to the States, resigning to the reality that the only breakfast available to me is the stuff offered at McDonald and Burger King.

  104. S.K. Cheung
    November 3rd, 2008 at 04:59 | #104

    To Bob:
    but I think Yantao’s point is that, even as a Roman, he’s not too thrilled with what Romans can (or can’t) do.

    You might have to broaden your horizons in your search for morning culinary satisfaction. I hope you aren’t suggesting that your only choices are at the Arches or BK. Don’t you have a Taco-Bell or Dunkin Donuts near by?

  105. Hongkonger
    November 3rd, 2008 at 05:07 | #105


    Don’t listen to SKC, those suggested breakfast venues will kill ya…(Just kidding, y’all.)

    Canadian Authentic Maple syrup, with blueberry pancakes, plain yoghurt with Meusli, and black Kona coffee used to be my fav. b’fast combo.

    How far are you from the nearest China / Korean / Japanese / Italian etc town?

  106. Ted
    November 3rd, 2008 at 06:10 | #106

    @TommyBahamas #85…

    “Welcome to Fool’s Mountain…

    We are talking about China, the world. We are trying to understand others and ourselves… Come make friends and refuse not the wisdom of your fellow human beings or perceived nemesises.”

    LOL, I’m nominating this as FM’s official welcome message.

  107. Charles Liu
    November 3rd, 2008 at 07:38 | #107

    skc@ 99, “if “freedom” is a stick that you can pee on”

    Um, Rowan is using Freedom House’s definition. Pee on that.

  108. Wukailong
    November 3rd, 2008 at 08:07 | #108

    @Bob: “I am generally not a fan of internet censorship. But if you are getting used to it, it’s not really a big deal. When in Rome, do as the Romans do.”

    Well, I’ll echo SKC and add that I know some Romans who are as fed up with the system as I am. The spoiled expat argument is outdated (if it ever was up-to-date).

  109. Raj
    November 3rd, 2008 at 10:25 | #109

    The pain experienced by expats is really some small inconvenience, considering all perks they get from working in China.

    Who said we’re talking about expats? Internet censorship affects citizens far more than foreigners. Why are you just focusing on yourself?

    A more serious issue IMO is the lack of variety in food in the U.S.

    Bob, if you consider the inability to get a decent breakfast from McDonalds or Burger King a problem then you:

    a) have your priorities wrong;
    b) are far too lazy and could do with trying other establishments (start by not going to huge chains).

    McDonalds and Burger King do not do “interesting” breakfasts in the UK either, but there are plenty of alternatives. The same applies to any country.


    @ 93


    I’m free to b!tch, but as soon as I do anything about it, it’s hanging upside down by my balls at Gitmo.

    How many US human rights activists have been packed off to Cuba for protesting/campaigning against the Bush administration?

    Is it really *that* different than China? There are plenty of political activists in China that are not arrested

    Yes, of course it’s “that” different. That some activists are not arrested does not mean China is nearly as free as the US. The Chinese government directly censors discussion that is critical of it/the ruling party in the printed media and online. On the other hand the White House has no such control – and if it does it doesn’t use it. People are free in the US to propose formation of a new government and stand for election under their own parties. Is that possible in China? Hell no.

    Charles, come up with some credible arguments or stop wasting our time.

  110. Jerry
    November 3rd, 2008 at 11:36 | #110

    @Bob #103
    @S.K. Cheung #104
    @Hongkonger #105
    @Wukailong #108

    Bob, regarding internet censorship, what is important to me is it is how it affects the Chinese citizens, the people of China. The issue is not about expats.

    Were it just censorship, that would be bad enough. But this is also about “Golden Shield”, which tracks Chinese people by photo, CCTV, mobi phone activity, Internet activity, IDs, etc. The risk for intimidation and oppression is high with a system like that.

    I am with WKL, Yantao and SK on the “Romans”, the natives who are restless about internet censorship and the implications of “Golden Shield”.

    I agree with you on the food issue. It is one of the reasons I moved to Taipei. The food is so much better and more personal here. Being a vegetarian, it is so much easier to find quality food here than in the US. And I got sick of the outrageous prices for fruit and veggies at Whole Foods (which we renamed Whole Paycheck) and PCC co-op. The farmers markets were a little bit cheaper. Trader Joes was great for dried fruit and nuts.

    I sympathize with you, Bob. MacD’s and BK are pretty sorry. Sorry, SK, but Taco Bell or Dunkin Donuts just don’t cut it with me. Taco del Mar in Seattle is ok. Mister Donuts in Japan and Taiwan is ok, too. But the street markets, neighborhood stores, and street vendors are much better and varied here than US fare. Xiao bing, you tiao, jiu tsai he and dou jiang are a much better way to start the morning.

    I get depressed when I go back to the US and try to find decent places to eat. HKer had some good ideas. I just find the Chinese food in the US is too Americanized. I find it much better in Vancouver, BC, where there is excellent Chinese food in Chinatown and even more so in Richmond (out by the airport). In Seattle, most of my Taiwanese and Chinese friends would always suggest Vietnamese or Thai restaurants, which I agree are generally better. I have found a lot of good Indian restaurants in the US. But I am lucky; I have Indian friends who invite me over to their houses for the best Indian food I have ever tasted.

  111. November 3rd, 2008 at 14:08 | #111

    Guys, coming from a country without a constitution, it is amazing to me that people would go to the trouble of writing one and put this at the very top:

    “Article 1. The People’s Republic of China is a socialist state under the people’s democratic dictatorship led by the working class and based on the alliance of workers and peasants. The socialist system is the basic system of the People’s Republic of China. Sabotage of the socialist system by any organization or individual is prohibited.”

    If you want the legal basis for the CCP’s muzzling of the press and silencing of opposition, here it is.

  112. Steve
    November 3rd, 2008 at 14:58 | #112

    OK guys, I’m here with my Chomsky book report. Remember, this is one man’s initial opinion based on a two days of reading, so if you disagree with my opinion that’s fine. This isn’t a “right or wrong” thing, it’s a viewpoint. 😉

    First of all, I’m glad I read him. I think one of the most important tools I need to keep my mind open in life is to read authors who make me think, and Chomsky does that and does it well. He throws a lot out there to digest and is consistent in his views. He also brings in a lot of past events, especially since the end of WWII.

    He points out many incidents that need to be pointed out where western governments, usually the USA, engaged in unsavory acts for its own benefit. He spends about 80% of his time criticizing the USA and 20% criticizing Western Europe. I can’t recall him criticizing any other countries beyond that. Something I looked for but was unable to find (though I’m guessing it exists… Jerry, can you help me out here?) was a systematic approach to what he believed would be the correct government structure. I saw a lot of criticisms but nothing in terms of solutions except that countries should not do what they’ve been doing. I’m a great believer in “checks and balances” and feel that a government has to be structured in such a way as to prevent the kinds of actions he so strongly protests.

    I noticed two major perceived weaknesses (in my mind) in his writings. First, he took many events and labeled them significant only as they applied to his theories. Many of these events had complex causes and to me are not as easily categorized. He seems to see every major world event since the war as being orchestrated by the elite in the United States without much regard to the friction engendered by the Cold War, and his criticisms from the material I read (which covered about seven or eight books of his) mostly applied to decisions made in the United States. As far as those decisions went, he seemed to attribute the motives to world domination and greed. I don’t feel the decisions that were made were as selfish as he describes them. As an example, just because McCarthy abused the system and created a ‘red scare” doesn’t mean there wasn’t a global challenge going on between two different economic and political systems that was a “life or death” struggle in many ways.

    The other perceived weakness I saw is a common one to academia. Let me describe it this way. Since I was young, I never cared much about big houses and luxury cars, or even most “toys” that guys like to buy and play with. All I ever wanted to do was travel. I didn’t want to be a tourist; I wanted to be a traveler. I wanted to see how others lived and immerse myself in their cultures. I wanted to eat their food, hear their music, understand their life philosophy and share their lifestyle. I began to notice very quickly that no matter how much I studied up on their culture (and I strongly recommend studying up on every culture you visit), once I got there it was never like I had imagined; to the point where I never imagine what a country will be like before I arrive. Reading books will never tell you the full truth about a culture. Making logical assumptions won’t tell you either. Cultures are messy; they don’t follow logic since people don’t follow logic, they use logic to justify their emotional choices.

    I’m American so America makes great choices; don’t you dare say anything bad about my country. I’m Chinese so China makes great choices; don’t you dare say anything bad about my country. Then the six-pack of “rational arguments” comes out to justify this emotional position. People make most of their decisions by gut reaction, then spend the rest of their lives finding logical reasons to prove they were correct.

    Academics do the same thing; they just do it more thoroughly. I felt Chomsky looked for reasons to justify his worldview, even when those reasons weren’t accurate. I’ve been to countries he described in his writings when talking about their history. I heard accounts from both sides and the actual event was always much more complex than he makes it. When I read his books, I found many “holes” in his accounts of historical events. Maybe it’s that I’m older and lived through a lot of them; maybe it’s that I have a habit of asking people who were in interesting situations to tell me about what really happened and it usually isn’t like the books said (I’m referring to all books about the event, not just Chomsky’s writings). Some things that actually happened are hard to document for academia. Many conclusions of academic scholarship are made in the safety of classrooms and university offices, without ever going out to those places to find out from the people who were there about what really happened. You might have noticed that when others quote research, I tend to tell stories based on my personal experiences. For me, I have more trust in those experiences than I do in reading media, whether books, newsprint or TV/movies.

    So in the end I see Chomsky as a brilliant man and one worth reading, but I don’t see him as a genius in terms of his political philosophy. I’m glad he writes and glad he’s quoted; I’m happy he has injected himself into the political process because as my father taught me from a young age, learning from one book or one source or one philosophy is not scholarship. You need to read material from different sources, different viewpoints and different cultures in order to get an overall understanding of what really happened, and then all you’re really doing is raising the percentage of truth in your conjectures. To get that percentage into the 80s and 90s is a very difficult task, but it is a goal worth pursuing.

  113. Steve
    November 3rd, 2008 at 18:10 | #113

    @S.K. Cheung #60, Jerry #61: Jerry, you got it right. In Pig Latin you would write it as ever-clay rather than lever-cay because you can’t break up the sound. (I’m sure there’s technical jargon for that) When I was young, there was a brief time when just about every kid learned to speak in Pig Latin. It was a passing fancy ~ came and went.

    @Yantao #62: No problem; I tend to ask a lot of questions when someone is knowledgeable about a particular subject. In my experience on this blog, I feel that the vast majority of participants are here because they love and admire the Chinese culture and its people, so I always assume the best intentions. We might not always agree, but I know that the opinions of the regulars are well thought out and usually consistent over time. We just tell it like we see it, and expect an opposing viewpoint to defend their position with data, experience and a sound argument. I’d glad you are expressing yourself and appreciate all your comments. Keep it up and thanks for the info!

    @ Yantao #66: The three things you mentioned (corruption, blind profit and the wealth gap) are exactly what I’ve heard from every one of my Chinese friends. Apparently those are the most consistent complaints nationwide.

    @Jerry #64, 69: I noticed that woman was from Grosse Point Farms, a super affluent community and home of the Detroit elites. What an asshole! I hope Shirley Nagel was abused, mocked, vilified, assailed, denounced, maligned and roasted in print, on TV, radio, email, and internationally. Wait a minute~ Jerry just took care of the “international” part. Thanks, Jerry!! Oh, and I loved the Einstein quote. He was a Jersey guy, you know. 🙂

    @Hongkonger #67, 70: I agree with you about this website; not only the guys you mentioned but virtually everyone here has brought up great insights that allow us to open our minds. I believe you guys are going to prevent me from ever getting Alzheimer’s since you keep my mind working hard, trying to catch up to your ideas.

    Do you know how Zhu is doing these days? I haven’t heard anything about him once he retired. I remember he was much more popular than Jiang during that administration. Since he was a part of the Shanghai Clique, did he get caught up in that corruption mess? I hope not.

    @FOARP #80: Thanks for sticking up for me but Charles #77 corrected that to “Jim’s diatribe”. Charles, thanks for getting me off the hook. 🙂

    Your last comment to Yantao caught my interest. I’d be curious to hear Yantao’s answer.

    @Charles Liu #89, 93: I linked to that paper and from what was in there, it seems the author feels China has made virtually no progress so far but will make great progress by 2015. That’s only 7 years from now. I hope he’s right but it seems very unlikely that progress that great can happen so quickly. Do you think it can happen that fast? If so, why? Are you looking at 2012 and the next president to implement the changes in just three years from the time he takes office? I’m curious as to your viewpoint on this.

    In #93, are you advocating that the United States and China currently have about the same amount of freedom? That’s what you seem to imply but I didn’t want to assume anything.

    @Bob #103: Most expats get a VPN connection in China ( I think they cost about US $45 per year so out of the reach of most Chinese) and can get around the Great Firewall that way. However, the Chinese government shut down the VPN lines just before the Olympics. Have they allowed them again? Corporations need to have VPN lines for secure communication so it’s a big deal to shut them down.

    @Hongkonger #105: I wanna go to breakfast with you!

  114. Charles Liu
    November 3rd, 2008 at 18:50 | #114

    Steve, I wonder if you missed this Chomsky quote:

    “if we are not total hypocrites, in the sense of the gospels, we will
    pay attention to our own crimes. For one reason, because that’s
    elementary morality”

    If nothing else, I would like to see the Chinese learn THIS from us.

    Also, are you reading the same Rowen article? China is far from perfect (as is America), but to say there’s been little/no progress is BS.

    Here’s what Professor Rowen said about the progress China has made:

    “large educational-improvement efforts are underway, especially in rural areas
    and the rapidly expanding postsecondary sector”

    “several factors that have led to a substantial growth in personal liberties and
    promise more freedom to come”

    “Phrases such as “capitalism with Chinese characteristics”
    and “democratic socialism” do not disguise the reality of the CCP’s
    massive but mostly unacknowledged ideological shift.”

    “Local elections, along with the aforementioned rise of certain relatively
    autonomous legal and media institutions, are helping to expand
    personal liberties”

    “The last three decades have seen the appearance of many new magazines
    and newspapers as well as talk radio, the Internet, and cell phones.
    The media cover a far wider range of topics than earlier, including official
    malfeasance and social problems as well as everyday concerns.”

    “By the mid-1990s, 90 percent of committee heads held their posts
    by virtue of the ballot.”

    “More wealth means more freedom. People have assets, more choices
    among goods, and a greater ability to decide where to work, live, and
    travel. Private ownership of housing, automobiles, and businesses is
    becoming widespread in China”

    “As literacy, urbanization, and mass-media exposure rise, modernizing
    societies experience characteristic shifts in values.”

  115. Steve
    November 3rd, 2008 at 18:57 | #115

    @Charles: I screwed up. I just read the synopsis and missed the link to the article. What caused me to write what I wrote was this, “Since then, China has remained deep in Not Free territory even though its civil-liberties score has improved a bit — from an absolutely abysmal 7 to a still-sorry 6 on the 7-point FH scale — while its political-rights score has remained stuck at the worst level. Yet today, surveying matters from a point slightly more than midway between 1996 and 2015, Rowen stands by his main conclusion: China will in the short term continue to warrant a Not Free classification, but by 2015 it should edge into the Partly Free category.”

    I’m sure by reading the .pdf file, I’ll get a lot more information. So no, I didn’t read the same Rowan article and that was the cause of my confusion. Thanks for letting me know.

  116. Steve
    November 3rd, 2008 at 22:03 | #116

    Charles, I had a chance to read the entire paper. Thanks for posting it! I thought it was very, very informative and positive.

    The only question that ran through my mind while reading Professor Rowan’s article was that I couldn’t think of a former Communist government that has made a smooth transition to democracy or something akin to it. Russia’s example isn’t a good one since they tried to make the political transition before the economic one. I agree with Deng about the correct order and hope his step by step philosophy is followed over the coming years. I also thought Rowan made a good point about China’s need to avoid a conflict with a neighboring state as she makes the transition to a more representative form of government.

    “If the disaster of an armed conflict between Beijing and Taipei
    (whose supporters are Japan and the United States) can be averted long
    enough for the mainland to become a democracy, the prospect of a
    peaceful solution will gather strength. Indeed, a more democratic mainland
    China is probably necessary for a peaceful resolution of this dispute.
    Yet a power struggle within China that drove some faction or
    factions to rouse popular nationalist sentiment could be one way in
    which rising political pluralism might lead to big trouble. Another way
    would be for Taiwan to declare itself an independent country.
    Should the hazards that come with transition be skirted, the democratic-
    peace thesis leads to a prediction that relations between China on
    the one hand and Japan and the United States on the other will remain

    This seems logical to me.

    One danger Rowan didn’t mention would be a move towards a form of fascism, which in the past was able to exist in a capitalistic environment. Hopefully there are reasons that possibility cannot come into play.

  117. Charles Liu
    November 3rd, 2008 at 22:19 | #117

    Steve, thank you for the insights. I take comfort in the fact one person have read it.

    As to your concern I can only say it’s a dynamic world we live in, who knows if there’s another Hitler in the brew somewhere, or if another country will ever get to the point where its military power is projected unopposed.

    The only truth is a static view of China doesn’t match the reality.

  118. S.K. Cheung
    November 4th, 2008 at 03:12 | #118

    To Jerry #110:
    I was just being facetious with the Taco Bell/Dunkin Donuts. If Bob can’t find good food cuz he’s only looking in McD’s and BK, then as Raj says, there are bigger issues there.

  119. S.K. Cheung
    November 4th, 2008 at 03:17 | #119

    To FOARP #111:
    thanks for that. So it’s illegal to criticize the CCP. Well, as a law-abiding citizen, I feel a whole lot better with that knowledge. So the whole internet ID tracking is just to allow them better tools to enforce the law…well…who wouldn’t want that. I mean, who’d want to criticize the CCP anyway, knowing that it was illegal and all… (in case it’s not clear, I’m saying this with a muchos sarcastic tone).

  120. S.K. Cheung
    November 4th, 2008 at 03:19 | #120

    To Charles #107:
    “Rowan is using Freedom House’s definition. Pee on that.”- I might, if I knew what Freedom House was, and how they define Partially Free (and if there was a god, said definition might just parallel a little bit pregnant).

  121. S.K. Cheung
    November 4th, 2008 at 03:33 | #121

    To Steve #112:
    thanks for the synopsis of Chomsky. Much like the article Allen linked on the other thread, it seems he’s extremely resourceful and capable of amassing large quantities of data. However, as you seem to suggest, he seems to write with a conclusion in his mind, and cherry-picks the data that supports his foregone conclusion. I’d be interested to know what “facts” he discards, and what alternate conclusions could be drawn from these discarded bits.

  122. November 4th, 2008 at 04:16 | #122

    @ Steve – Good report on Chomsky’s book. I feel mostly the same when I read him. Just one question I am wondering: which book is it? Hegemony or Survival?

  123. Steve
    November 4th, 2008 at 04:18 | #123

    To S.K. Cheung #121: One example comes to mind. I spent a lot of time in Chile in the late 1980s on business, and had a chance to talk to supporters of Pinochet, Allende and those caught in the middle. In the media here, you usually only hear about how bad Pinochet was (he and his people did some VERY bad things) but you never seem to hear about all those Cuban DGI (Secret Service) guys doing very bad things while working with Allende to circumvent the Chilean constitution before the CIA helped Pinochet to overthrow the government and kill Allende. It’s a complicated story that Chomsky simplified to only include outside interference by the CIA.

    Since this is a China blog, you could compare Pinochet to Deng. They both overthrew the previous far left government (Gang of Four + Allende), they both were behind violent repressions (Tiananmen Square + torture of Allende supporters by ex-Gestapo) and after repression, both instituted economic miracles in their respective countries. I actually had lunch in the German village where that torture took place, between Santiago and Concepcion. The fräulein who served us was none too friendly, but the food was good.

    In both examples, the survivors of the purges came to the United States and had their stories repeated over and over, so we continue to hear the student’s side at Tiananmen Square and Allende’s side at Santiago.

  124. Steve
    November 4th, 2008 at 04:23 | #124

    @chinayouren: Hegemony or Survival was one of them. I also read:
    Media Control
    Secrets, Lies & Democracy
    Manufacturing Consent
    Human Rights and American Foreign Policy

    There were two others; thin books containing interviews he did. I don’t remember the names offhand.

  125. Steve
    November 4th, 2008 at 04:29 | #125

    @Charles Liu #117: Charles, when I mentioned fascism I was thinking more along the lines of a Franco rather than a Hitler. That may give you a better grasp of my thinking. Hitler was mad; Franco was just a fascist.

  126. Jerry
    November 5th, 2008 at 13:57 | #126

    @Steve #112

    I hope you enjoyed your weekend fling with Noam. It sounds like we disagree on this, but so be it.

    Several comments. Perhaps growing up in a Russian Jewish culture, I read Chomsky differently. I know how to cut through things with Chomsky.

    Chomsky is around my dad’s age. I have come to appreciate Jews of that generation more as I have matured and grown up. It just took time. I wrote about Chomsky and Jews of his generation at http://blog.hiddenharmonies.org/2008/10/19/on-human-rights-intervention-and-the-international-order/#comment-18772 & http://blog.hiddenharmonies.org/2008/10/19/on-human-rights-intervention-and-the-international-order/#comment-18910

    I have read Chomsky for years. Because of that and our common Jewish culture, I would say that I have a relationship with him and his writings. It is difficult to gain that in a weekend.

    You asked what other countries he discusses. He writes and speaks extensively on Israel. Likud, Kadima, Sharon, Netanyahu, AIPAC, Lebanon, Gaza and the West Bank are common subjects. He was also a friend and colleague of Edward Said. Chomsky is the subject of much ridicule by rabid, pro-Israelis. Go check out what David Horowitz and Alan Dershowitz have to say about him. I would also bet that Elie Wiesel has a lot to say about Chomsky because Chomsky criticized him for trying to eliminate all discussion about the Armenian genocide and the Israeli sponsored attacks on Sabra and Shatila.

    You are right about Chomsky. He will not cover all the material and all sides of the argument. He sees himself in a role similar to the “Nazi Hunter”, Simon Wiesenthal. Wiesenthal was a relentless investigator, seeking to bring the Nazis to justice for their horrible war crimes. Noam sees the half-truths and sometimes lies in the NYT and WP as atrocious. Thus, he exposes information which has never seen the light of day. In that way, Chomsky is both political scientist and investigative journalist. Think of him as a Jewish muckraker, not much worried about balance. His prime motive is to expose the hidden truth, as he sees it.

    A man as prolific, intellectual and articulate as Chomsky tends to a narrow focus.

    It is not our place to correct the Cubans, the Russians, the Chinese, and the Eastern Bloc until we take care of our own sins. Our foreign policy and our intelligence structure have committed some horrible crimes under whatever banner we felt comfortable at that time. So Chomsky goes after that with vengeance. Just like my dad did business. Not surprising.

    I am like you. I am naturally curious. So I keep asking questions.

    I agree, Chomsky’s genius is not in his viewpoint. It is in the prolific writings, his relentless investigation and analysis, and exposition of truth, again as he sees it, which has not been previously exposed to light of day. And his inspiration of others.

    As an example, you can look at how the American media virtually ignored Timor L’este. Chomsky and others worked tirelessly to expose the truth about American and Australian involvement with the Indonesians and that ruthless bastard dictator, Suharto. All of that work eventually led to Timor independence, paid for by the blood of many Timorese at the hands of Indonesia.

    Finally, Steve, what is truth? 😀 Perhaps one of those great illusions like clarity and control? ::LMAO:: The best I ever get is to knowing my own viewpoint and keeping an open, yet skeptical mind. (If that is not a contradiction in terms?) 😀

    Steve and Allen, I will get around someday to answering why I retired here in Taipei, over on the “Taiwan violent” thread.

  127. Steve
    November 5th, 2008 at 20:23 | #127

    Hi Jerry ~ Thanks for the thoughtful reply. We might disagree to an extent on Chomsky but I still enjoyed reading his books, liked his clear, cogent writing style and appreciated that he would dedicate himself passionately to what he thinks is right. I admire his exposure and publicizing of “hidden truths” since without facts, we cannot make informed judgments. I just don’t always agree with his analysis of said facts, so we may differ in that respect but that’s what makes discussion fun.

    I actually stayed informed about Timor because back in the 80s, I was researching potential markets for business and narrowed it down to Chile and Indonesia. I picked Chile because corruption was a very minor factor there, while Indonesia at the time (under Suharto) was the most corrupt government in Asia. Not being a large corporation, I didn’t want to take that risk. But in doing my research, I became aware of many internal issues that were quite nasty.

    Jerry, what is truth? Truth is that the universe revolves around the earth. Truth is that Newton figured out physics and there is nothing more to be discovered. Truth is that when a person is sick, you need to bleed them to eliminate the “bad humours” from their system. Truth is that only white males can ever be elected as president of the United States. I rest my case, your honor…

  128. Hongkonger
    November 6th, 2008 at 01:18 | #128

    @Admin, Double posted..please delete above. Thanks

    Finally, Steve, what is truth? Perhaps one of those great illusions like clarity and control?
    Jerry, what is truth?
    Truth is, I Know, for sure, I will never effing KNOW the truth, as long as I live — NO thanks to censureship. When I was teenager, I was so frustrated by this one particular line in the Apocalypse. The author, Saint John, was on the island of Patmos fasting and praying for days. Then when he emerges from some cave one early misty morning, he sees the ground covered with schrooms, which he must’ve thought were manna from heaven. Absolutely famished, he wolfed it up and very soon after his organic breakfast, he begins to see visions. And as he was recording the incredible chain of events unfolding before his magic mushroom tripped out eyes of the End-of-Time, the Angel by his side says to John, “Edit this part out.” (My paraphrase). WTF?

    When one of my buddies announced, one fine afternoon, to my horror, of his wedding, my immediate question to him was, “Are you sure? Why? Is she knocked up? Do you love her?” And, with deep frowns, he replys, “What isssss… love?” Unable to reply, I shrugged and lifted my frothy pint with the other blokes at our table and with sympathetic smiles, congratulated him.
    Later, a merger & acquisition, and Copyrights lawyer buddy of ours jokingly commented, “Marriage is merely a legal binding financial contract between two people in love with the idea of running a private business. No big deal, nothing personal, it’s just business. So, again, Congratulations!”

    “Hear, hear !,” the rest of us with raised mugs chanted.

  129. Jerry
    November 7th, 2008 at 01:28 | #129

    @Steve #123

    Steve, interesting remarks about Chile, Pinochet, Allende, CIA, and DGI.

    To S.K. Cheung #121: One example comes to mind. I spent a lot of time in Chile in the late 1980s on business, and had a chance to talk to supporters of Pinochet, Allende and those caught in the middle. In the media here, you usually only hear about how bad Pinochet was (he and his people did some VERY bad things) but you never seem to hear about all those Cuban DGI (Secret Service) guys doing very bad things while working with Allende to circumvent the Chilean constitution before the CIA helped Pinochet to overthrow the government and kill Allende. It’s a complicated story that Chomsky simplified to only include outside interference by the CIA.

    I have never been to Chile, let alone South America. Nonetheless, here is my take.

    Allende was part of the ruling class in Chile. He was a socialist. He succeeded Eduardo Frei. Frei was not a saint. Neither was Salvador Allende, but not as bad as Frei. Most national leaders have made pacts with the devil, sold their souls or do whatever is required to attain power and keep it.

    Yes, Salvador made pacts with Communists and DGI. I imagine that they did some bad things. Still, he was an improvement over Frei, IMHO. And Salvador knew that consorting with Socialists and Communists made him a marked man. Marked by the CIA, Dick Nixon, Henry Kissinger, Richard Helms, School of the Americas (now euphemistically called Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation), etc. (BTW, Helms was the only CIA Director convicted of lying to Congress.) Before the Shrub Administration came along, the Nixon White House was the scariest presidency we had known. Just setting the stage here.

    So, Allende knew he had to make friends quickly, just for self preservation. He had earlier made an alliance with one of my favorite communists, the poet Pablo Neruda. So he brought in the DGI. His daughter even married the DGI station chief. He may have brought in the KGB. He had alliances with Russia, and probably China. It may be ugly, but what else could he do with Americans breathing down his neck. Orlando Letelier found out in 1976 just how dangerous the CIA was.

    Well, the rest is history. Allende was overthrown in 1973. Orlando Letelier was assassinated in NYC in 1976 by the CIA and DINA agents (Pinochet’s secret police). Pinochet’s infamy is richly deserved. So, too, are the infamies of Nixon, Kissinger, Helms, the SOA, CIA, etc. Yeah, the KGB, DGI, et al are pretty infamous, too.

    Steve, I have never heard Isabella Allende or Michelle Bachelet ever say a word about the DGI. I have heard plenty from them about that bastard Pinochet. I also note above that you mention the Chilean Constitution. I have no idea what was in that constitution. I can only imagine that it needed some significant improvement.

    Final comments. I have read and enjoyed Neruda’s poetry in the past. And my all-time favorite movie is “Il Postino”. I loved Phillipe Noiret as Neruda and the magnificent, understated Massimo Troisi as the postman, Mario. Watching that movie is like taking a vacation in a far-away village in Italy. So tragic was Troisi’s death immediately following production of the movie. He knew he was terminally ill. It seems like his impending death gave that movie a special impetus, heart and soul. Quelle tristesse.

    BTW, Asian stocks are getting hammered again. Taiex is around 4500, down 3.7%. Nikkei 225 is down 6.7%. Hang Seng is down 7%.

    BTW, do you have a knife available to cut the polluted air today here in Taipei? The PM2.5 readings are over 200% of WHO guidelines. And that is at 9 am in the morning. Kind of reminds me of Gary, Indiana when the steel mills were going full blast.

  130. Steve
    November 7th, 2008 at 03:44 | #130

    Hi Jerry ~ I enjoyed reading your take. Before I went to Chile, I read up on the culture and history… and politics. What I read was pretty much what you wrote, so that was my impression on arrival.

    I’ve always been interested in politics and at that time, Chile was in the middle of its first election since the coup so there was a lot of political talk. I just asked a bunch of questions and listened. I didn’t give any opinions; just played dumb so they would talk honestly about their feelings. I had read Allende and Neruda like you had, so my frame of mind was similar to yours of today.

    What I heard was a more complex story. Now I’m certainly not taking Pinochet’s side in this, I’m just telling you what I was told on both sides. I heard stories about torture and persecution during their ‘civil war’, which is the term they used to describe it. If I remember correctly, there was a three way election for President and Allende got in with a minority vote. Once in, he started cozying up to the Communists though he had run as a socialist. From what I was told, he was closest to the Cubans, not the Russians though there was some Russian involvement. No one said anything about the Chinese. I didn’t know about Allende’s daughter marrying the DGI station chief.

    Some Chileans I talked to were Allende supporters and some were not. The ones who were not said that Allende was the one who started confrontations with the military, replacing the key generals and adding political attaches to the army units. If you haven’t been there, it’s hard to understand the status of the army. They have always been the best army in South America as Argentina has always had the best navy. Until the coup, Chile had the longest running democracy in South America and the people were proud of it. The majority of the country (remember, Allende won with a minority) did not want to go down the Communist road. Whether the army approached the CIA or the CIA approached the army is hard to say. Regardless, they both had the same agenda and got together.

    Before the coup, I was told that Cuban troops and advisors had been sent and this was intolerable to the army. After the coup, the Cubans felt that they could still swing the country over and there was violence on both sides in a quasi Civil War. That’s when Pinochet’s people used the former Germans who had settled in the country after WWII for the torture they are famous for. Even the Pinochet supporters felt quesy about that.

    The first few years after the coup were pretty shaky; suspicion of everyone was in the air. The economy was in shambles and that is when Pinochet’s economic minister instituted reforms that turned the economy around. When I was there, Chile had the most vibrant economy in South America.

    Chile is an unusual country for South America. There is very little Indian mix in the culture; most fought to the death during the colonial days. Back then it wasn’t a first world country but there wasn’t that rich/poor two class system like most developing countries. There was a good sized middle class.

    In the first election after Pinochet, his economic minister ran against the new liberal party candidate. The election was deemed clean and the liberal won. The election was very close. Pinochet was still pretty popular at that time and most people appreciated that he had handed over power peacefully. However, those same people feared him. When Pinochet considered postponing the election, the US suddenly found two poisonous grapes in Philadelphia and “banned” all US grapes for a few weeks. This sent the message to Pinochet not to postpone the election, so the pressure from the US in this case was for having the election; credit where credit is due. The Chileans understood this and appreciated the US government (under Bush Sr.) for keeping pressure on Pinochet because they were ready for democracy to come back.

    My major impression is that though both Allende and Pinochet had their supporters, the majority of the people I spoke with didn’t really support either. They felt Pinochet was the better of two evils and appreciated the vastly improved economy, but they did not approve of the violence and torture used in the coup and its aftermath. I could feel that they were torn when discussing the situation.

    My point was not to analyze Chile in the 70s but just to show that these situations aren’t as simple as they are sometimes described. I’ve always been inclined to believe the people who were there and not so much the books written later about the situation. Many of those books and articles are written to put forth a “cause” and not to get at the truth of the matter.

    On my longest trip to Chile (3 weeks) I wasn’t keeping up with the news while I was gone. After all, what could happen? So I get back home and find out the Berlin Wall had come down!

    Il Postino is a great movie! I have to admit that I bought the DVD in China for 7 kuai.

    Wow, that’s really bad pollution! Hopefully it’ll rain soon and wash it out. That’s the bad thing about putting an industrial city with a zillion cars and 2 stroke motorbikes inside a valley surrounded by mountains.

    Jerry, I put this on the Human Rights thread but I’ll also leave it here:

    Thought you might like to see this: http://yeli.us/Flash/Fire.html

    Ye Li took a Billy Joel song and set it to 120 different images, most or all of which you should recognize. It’s a walk down memory lane. Don’t forget to turn up the volume and click the “fullscreen” button on the upper left side to get the full effect.

  131. Steve
    November 7th, 2008 at 05:47 | #131

    Sorry, should have said “banned all Chilean grapes for a few weeks”

  132. Ted
    November 11th, 2008 at 01:33 | #132

    Any thoughts on this?

    “ID-checking site collapses after going public”

    Not specifically what the initial post was about but I thought it was sufficiently related and landed squarely in the “Control” column. If the ID checking site is launched again, I guess it would allow anyone registering a new user at an internet bar to verify the ID.

  133. Jerry
    November 12th, 2008 at 11:20 | #133


    Since we had our discussion about Pinochet, Allende and Chile, a notice caught my eye today. It is from the Cinematheque in Hanoi. Hanoicinemas.org is an organization which shows many films from around the world. It is an old theatre, restaurant and bar. To attend films there, you need to be a member, for which the annual fee is around 50,000 to 100,000 dong. Many of the embassies in Hanoi sponsor film festivals featuring movies from their respective countries. They just announced the Chilean series.

    Here are the two movies which caught my attention.


    2004 Directed by Andrés Wood 102 minutes
    Spanish with English subtitles. No Vietnamese translation.

    Chile, 1973. Salvador Allende has been in power for less than three years but his eagerness to reform Chilean society has hit the buffers with galloping inflation and a food shortage. The fascist gangrene is taking hold of large swathes of the Chilean middle-class while in Washington, Kissinger and Nixon are plotting Allende’s downfall and replacement with the brutal dictator Pinochet.

    The Infante family, like many Chilean families, are split down the middle – Patricio, the father, is a supporter of Allende whereas his wife, María is worried about the effects of socialism on her life. The young Gonzalo (Matías Quer) finds the politics of it all too complex to keep up with. Changes are afoot at his school too as the director, Father McEnroe, has started to change the school’s exclusive and private status by accepting a clutch of students from the local shanty town. The introverted Gonzalo strikes up an enduring friendship with one of the newcomers, Pedro Machuca, much to the dislike of his other schoolmates.

    MACHUCA has been the most successful film ever to come out of Chile, as well as the first to deal with the coup of the 11th September 1973. Drawing heavily from his own childhood experiences, Andrés Wood has created an intimate timepiece which manages to take a step back from its political message and lets the characters and the events talk for themselves. The recounting of the story through the eyes of Gonzalo may bear obvious parallels with Truffaut, Louis Malle’s AU REVOIR LES ENFANTS, or even Peter Weir’s DEAD POETS SOCIETY, but Wood manages to control his vision with sufficient dexterity to allow it to come to fruition, in large part thanks to the young, inexperienced cast who create a convincing group of haves and have-nots on the cusp of adolescence. MACHUCA manages to be political without being preachy which in itself is no mean feat.

    Review by Matt McNally, BBC London:

    “The turbulent days of 1973, in which Augusto Pinochet seized power over Chile before embarking on two decades of brutal oppression, are seen through the eyes of two young boys from opposite ends of Santiago society in MACHUCA. Chilean director Andrés Wood’s evocative rites-of-passage drama tells the story of friends Gonzalo and Pedro, and uses the boys’ changing relationship as a metaphor for the social tensions that helped destroy a nation.

    All the ingredients you might expect of a political South American film are here – the characteristic colours of revolution, images of deprivation and corruption – but they’re kept mostly in the background. In the foreground are the characters, especially the wealthy Gonzalo and penniless Pedro, but also their families and classmates.

    Ultimately, the kids’ relationships are as doomed as those of their more politically entrenched parents, and the outbreak of violence signals a disturbing end to their innocent friendships.”

    Review by A.O. Scott, New York Times:

    “MACHUCA, which is Chile’s submission to this year’s Academy Awards, is both sweet and stringent, attuned to the wonders of childhood as well as its cruelty and terror. Mr. Wood allows the story to unfold at a leisurely, almost dawdling pace, which matches the consciousness of his young protagonist. There are moments that feel forced and schematic – in particular those that insist on revealing Gonzalo’s school as a microcosm of a society riven by class and ideology.

    The greater achievement of the film lies in showing both the weakness and the tenacity of those divisions. The friendship between Gonzalo and Pedro shows how arbitrary they are, and how affection and decency can overcome such differences. But historical circumstances rule out false comfort or redemptive optimism.

    Mr. Wood ends Gonzalo’s youthful idyll with a few short, painful strokes -scenes of the military takeover that capture the harsh, emphatic force with which authoritarian rule announces its arrival. The television proclaims that the army has restored order, and a newspaper headline proclaims the return of normalcy. But the scenes of soldiers taking over Gonzalo’s school and subduing Pedro’s neighborhood show the reality behind the euphemisms. While Mr. Wood’s political sympathies are clearly with the victims of the coup, he never suggests that the events of September 1973 were simple, or that they can be easily understood. But MACHUCA nonetheless has a tough, heavy clarity. Its point is not to settle scores or reopen old wounds, but rather to explore, after a long period of repression, the possibility of grief. The youthful condition it evokes most strongly is not innocence but impotence – the discovery that you are powerless to protect the people you care about from harm, an!
    d also powerless to protect yourself against the shame of your own failure.”

    ‘Superb… exuberant… hugely entertaining‘

    ‘One of the rarest things, a really watchable political film‘



    1982 Directed by Costa-Gavras 122 minutes
    English only. No Vietnamese translation

    Not a Chilean production, but an important movie ABOUT Chile in the Pinochet days. Won 1982 Academy Award for Best Screenplay, and was nominated for Best Actor (Jack Lemmon) and Best Actress (Sissy Spacek).

    MISSING is political filmmaker extraordinaire Costa-Gavras’s compelling, controversial dramatization of the search for American filmmaker and journalist Charles Horman, who mysteriously disappeared during the 1973 coup in Chile. Jack Lemmon and Sissy Spacek give magnetic, emotionally commanding performances as Charles’s father and wife, who are led by U.S. embassy and consulate officials through a series of bureaucratic dead-ends before eventually uncovering the terrifying facts about Charles’s fate and disillusioning truths about their government. Written and directed with clarity and conscience, the Academy Award–winning MISSING is a testament to Costa-Gavras’s daring.

    From review by Vincent Canby, New York Times:

    “MISSING, Mr. Costa-Gavras’s latest film, is about the 1973 kidnap and murder in Chile of Charles Horman, a young, Harvard-educated, counterculture journalist.

    It is the belief of Mr. Costa-Gavras, as well as of Thomas Hauser, the lawyer who wrote the book on which the film is based, that young Mr. Horman was executed by Chilean authorities, probably with the tacit approval of some United States representatives on the scene, because he had knowledge of United States involvement in the military coup that had overthrown the Marxist government of Dr. Salvador Allende Gossens, the Chilean President.

    MISSING is Mr. Costa-Gavras’s most beautifully achieved political melodrama to date, a suspense-thriller of real cinematic style, acted with immense authority by Jack Lemmon, as Charles Horman’s father, Ed Horman, and Sissy Spacek as Charles’s wife, Beth. The screenplay, by Mr. Costa-Gavras and Donald Stewart, is a model of its kind, in which Ed and Beth’s search for Charles is developed in a series of scenes that seamlessly join past and present actions into a nonstop, forward moving narrative.

    The center of the film is the political awakening of Ed Horman, who comes to Chile to help Beth, though he suspects that Charles has gone under cover for some reason that is beyond his comprehension. ”If he had stayed home,” says Ed, who is well-to-do and politically conservative, as well as a practicing Christian Scientist, ”this wouldn’t have happened.”

    Ed calls Charles ”almost deliberately naive” for his identification with underdogs. Says the beleagured Beth, ”We’re just two normal, slightly confused people trying to connect with the entire enchilada.”

    Charles, played with modest simplicity by John Shea, comes to life in the flashbacks. He’s a dedicated, somewhat guilt-ridden heir to a privileged America, a young man who reads ”The Little Prince” for literary inspiration and whose optimism is unshakable. If not deliberately naive, he’s the kind of unsophisticated saint one always wants to believe in.

    Ed and Beth’s search for Charles involves a succession of chilling encounters with politely patronizing United States embassy and consular officials, as well as with members of the Chilean Government. The major villains are vaguely identified United States military people, especially a Capt. Ray Tower (Charles Cioffi), who befriends Charles, and a young American woman named Terry Simon (Melanie Mayron), when the two are marooned in the resort town of Vina del Mar during the coup, unable to return to Santiago.

    If MISSING were only an inventory of the details of Charles’s life and disappearance, it wouldn’t have the terrific emotional impact that it has. Mr. Lemmon and Miss Spacek are superb, however, and their increasing respect and fondness for each other as the story unfolds gives ”Missing” an agonizing reality.

    Mr. Costa-Gavras also knows Chile, where he filmed STATE OF SIEGE during the Allende regime – MISSING was shot in Mexico – and he is particularly successful in evoking the looks, sounds and feelings of a society in upheaval.

    There’s a stunning sequence in Santiago when Beth, unable to get home before curfew, spends an endless night hiding in an alley, hearing in the distance gunfire and other sounds not easily identified. At one point a terrified white horse goes galloping down an otherwise deserted street, pursued by soldiers firing random shots from a speeding jeep. In this sequence as elsewhere, the camera work by Ricardo Aronovich is very fine indeed.

    Whether or not its facts are verifiable, MISSING documents, in a most moving way, the raising of the political consciousness of Ed Horman who has, until this devastating experience, always believed in the sanctity of his government and accepted its actions and policies without question. Among other things ”Missing” does is to convince you that, next time, you’re not going to waste your vote. The passive citizen is the citizen-victim.

    In view of the film’s opening contention of being a true story, the care that Mr. Costa-Gavras takes not ever to identify Chile by name is a bit disingenuous. The cities are clearly named and identified. Also a bit disingenuous is the way the film never bothers to give a good answer to the question of why the Chilean – and possibly the American – authorities found it necessary to liquidate Charles Horman while allowing the safe departure from Chile of Terry Simon. Terry, after all, is privy to all the supposedly damaging information Charles gathered in Vina del Mar.

    These are valid questions to raise about a film that is so fine that one wants it to be above reproach.

  134. Steve
    November 12th, 2008 at 14:34 | #134

    @Jerry: A big thank you for those two reviews. I saw “Missing” years before I went to Chile. Anything with Jack Lemmon gets my attention and Sissy Spacek never gives a bad performance either. I thought they were both superb in this movie. But after seeing so much of Chile through my own eyes and hearing personal stories from various people, my opinion of the story itself changed. I think it had a “point of view” to relate and though a valid one, still rather simplistic. No one in Chile talked about the US government’s role in the coup; it was always about Allende, Pinochet and the Cubans. With our US-centric view of the world, we sometimes tend to think everything revolves around us and what we do and who we support, and we blow up that portion in our storytelling to give it prime importance when maybe it was a side story. To our media, one American death becomes more important than hundreds or thousands of local deaths. My guess is that Vincent Canby knows good moviemaking, but didn’t know jack about Chile before he saw the movie.

    I’d like to see Machuca based on that review. It sounded very much like what I heard there; some family members inclined to one side while others were inclined to another. Mostly, no one really knew what was going on; they just knew they needed to be careful. As I said before, the situation was very complicated and this movie seems to also take that tack, showing the conflict among ordinary people. But I also noticed in the review by Matt McNally, he says “Augusto Pinochet seized power over Chile before embarking on two decades of brutal oppression”. Sorry, that’s an uninformed reviewer spouting BS propaganda. The bad times lasted about 5-7 years, then things opened up. It was still a dictatorship until 1989, but the brutal oppression had been over for quite some time. It’s very easy to simplify things; paint one side as good and the other as bad, but it rarely works out that way. Remember, it was under Pinochet that Chile had their democratic elections.

    I only used Chile as an example because I had spent time there so I had a pretty good understanding of the situation. I’m sure this same motif applies to other countries and other situations. Incidentally, if you ever have a chance to get to Chile, my advice is… GO!! It’s a beautiful country, very friendly people, great food, Santiago is very cosmopolitan and so spotless you can practically eat off the street. The feel of the city is definitely European more than South American, very similar to Buenos Aires but without the controlled chaos. It’s actually a very stable society that had a very bad hiccup in the 70s, but no reason at all to stay away now.

  135. Yantao
    November 14th, 2008 at 13:16 | #135
  136. Zhangtao
    December 16th, 2008 at 16:36 | #136

    I’m from shanghai china.indeed just now i tried myself registering on Tianyaclub.com. also i have an account several years ago. i found theres 3 method that you can register a new account. one is through code sending by MP.one is through your friend already have name in Tianya.one is by Tianya mail. indeed i register a new name by 2method. I think it’s not mandatory.its just a conduct not mandatory. we can post our articles by not let them know our names.
    also i searched Baidu engine china theres some reason.
    1South Korea ‘s death of female star leads the government implement real name registering.
    2We can find who gives slanderous cause problem
    3avoid random remarks toward enterprises cause problem the economy losses for example.US Cocacola IBM which happened before
    Thanks that’s just some of my opinions.

  1. March 19th, 2019 at 03:54 | #1

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