Apparently, James Fallows‘ latest book, “China Airborn” has argued the reason the Internet in China is ‘slow’ is due to censorship. Due to censorship, Fallows argued, China would never be innovative enough and hence won’t be able to produce her own companies like Apple. In this article, he capitulates to his readers who contend that the Internet within China is actually fast. It’s ‘slow’ only when Westerners try to access web sites outside China. From that, he concludes China’s Internet is still an ‘intranet,’ which makes Chinese society incapable of becoming world class. That’s nonsense too. It’s the same sort of hogwash as the Chinese dream article he wrote recently.
The reason Western web sites are ‘slow’ from within China is because such web sites don’t have servers physically located inside China. If Fallows had tried to access Microsoft or Yahoo from within China, he’d known it’s fast. Why? Because those companies have co-located their servers in China and are likely paying for high-bandwidth connections in highly populated areas.
Now, if Fallows had tried to access a Chinese web site from the U.S., he’d find the access slow too. Why? That’s because traffic will have to cross the Pacific and make it’s way into somewhere within China. Of course, if that web site is popular and has many users in the U.S., it’s likely that site will have servers co-located in high-bandwidth data centers throughout America. This is why companies like Akamai makes tons of money provisioning high-bandwidth services to major web sites around the world!
Does the fact that America has a ‘slow’ access into China make the U.S. Internet an intranet? Nonsense!
Sure, China censors it’s Internet. Political speech is much more restrictive in China. Does that translate to an inability to innovate? Does cracking down on a dissident who wants to overthrow the Chinese government translate to Chinese companies unable to make smartphones? This Huawei Quad Core smartphone seems to be pretty competitive against the iPhone.
I would credit the ability to innovate in America to the scientific peer review in her science journals. I would credit innovation also to America’s venture capital and startup culture. I also credit innovation to America’s wealth. If 800 million Chinese are still toiling in the farms for subsistence, well, that’s a lot of people not given the opportunity to innovate. Give China time!
I would further argue there is a mental intranet that has possessed Fallows and many Westerners.
Has Fallows done a search in Chinese on Baidu? In fact, despite Google having it’s server shut down in China, Google still commands about 10+% search revenue from the Chinese market. Why? That’s because many Chinese users are searching for English content on Google.com. Also, look at the ratio of Chinese students studying in the U.S. versus the other way around? It’s an order of magnitude in difference. For this reason, I highly support President Obama’s 100K Strong initiative.
The reason Fallows use ‘intranet’ to describe the Chinese Internet is because the Western mindset has been indoctrinated to view suppression of political speech as some sort of mind control by the government.
It’s an ‘intranet,’ because, my god, it’s in Chinese?!
When we talk about innovation, we are talking about the flow of ideas. Advocates of FLG or Tibetan separatist being censored hardly makes any difference. In terms of the free flow of ideas, until Fallows does his first search in Chinese on Baidu, I wager China may eventually ‘win’ the innovation competition. Because? The mental intranet is too cocky and believes others cannot innovate or have dreams. And, certainly, Fallows doesn’t lack intelligence.
[Edit May 30, 2012]
For the bottom-feeders in the Western press who prefer to defame the Chinese as ‘intellectual property thieves,’ Fallows’ line of argument in fact is a form of ‘intellectual’ backing for that nonsense. When you can collectively say a society isn’t up to par in innovations, well, then, whenever it innovates, it must be through theft. I don’t think this is what Fallows is setting out to do. However, when nonsense spews which give credence to the defamers, then I am compelled to respond.
i wouldn’t raise my hopes if you’re expecting any sort of meaningful insight on China by Mr Fallows. This is an individual who actually thought it a revelation that China’s 1.3 billion actually had their own minds and opinions and dreams.
Fallows, for all his supposed neutral tone and apparent reasonableness, is an idiot. a dotty old idiot, but an idiot nontheless.
To be fair to Fallows, he did allow significant amount of space in the article to those (ChinaHearsay being one of them) who effectively argued against his points.
I think Fallows’ whole premise on what leads innovation is wrong. Per Fallows, because Chinese likes to access more internal websites from within China and not from the outside (which are presumably censored), Chinese’s ability to innovate will be hindered. I find this to be utterly silly. For one, even when a nation has no censorship and has faster internet, doesn’t mean that its people are more knowledgeable about the outside world. Many Americans for example have very little knowledge of what’s going on outside of the US. They don’t access websites outside of the US, nor do they care about people from other nations. Korea is another example. Sure the internet is super fast in Korea, and there are less censorship in Korea than China (although in SKorea you MUST register with your real name/ID in order to chat on popular messageboards due to numerous internet harassment which lead to suicides). However most Koreans do not have the language capability nor the desire to visit websites from outside of Korea. The fact that America and Korea can innovate therefore is not because Americans and Koreans can access information from outside of their own cultures. IMO innovation has more to do with culture, drive, and capital than anything else.
Excellent point that Fallows has little understanding how the internet works. Any Western Internet companies wants to do business in China but don’t want to put any footprint in China is shooting themselves in the foot.
I agree with you that I think his intranet arguement is bs. But you can’t deny that the government control in China is an obstacle for innovation, not a promoter. cultural industry, social research, bank loans and sport system just to name a few. I feel the Chinese identity will be so much better fulfilled is these and other areas are free to develop. the Kongfu panda dilemma is just insane!
cultural industry? social research? Bank loans? Sports System? Why does the government’s job to ‘innovate’ that?
I think you pretty much destroyed Fallows’ silly assertion. The scary thing is that Fallows is actually pretty normal when it comes to journalistic competence among western journalists. He is not exceptionally stupid or incompetent at least among his peers. Arrogant, self-satisfied, poorly educated people abound in the profession in the US and much of the west.
Black Pheonix says
“I agree with you that I think his intranet arguement is bs. But you can’t deny that the government control in China is an obstacle for innovation, not a promoter.”
That’s the typical Republican argument against “government regulation”.
Yes, any kind of control/regulation are “obstacles”, not “promoters” of innovation.
You know what’s a bigger “obstacle” of innovation than government control/regulation? Chaos of the masses! (as evident in the US banking industry).
I can’t agree more that there are severe consequences of the chaos of the masses! I think that’s why some people, including me, promote the social justice, the rule of law, a free press, balancing government power to prevent abuse of power. These improve social harmonies and reduce the risk for chaotic mass movements. crack down on the masses is, IMHO, 治标不治本.
what do you think?
are you saying controlling cultural industry, social research, Bank loans, Sports System, is not government’s job? I wholeheartedly agree with you! innovations push boundaries. when the government set a tight boundary on so many things, it becomes harder for its people to create “the next big thing”. China is doing fine copying “the next big thing” and is very good at “process innovation”. But our ancestors might be disappointed that these are the only thing we are accomplishing.
you are probably disappointed by the Chinese government’s tenancy to take on a greater number of responsibilities than their western counterpart. for example:
Fallows obviously suffered from tunnel vision as well. Although he is correct in that the US still has more top 500 MNC, he failed to explain why companies like Huawei, ZTE, Sany or even Geely was not founded in the US in the 1980s. Those companies are all founded by guys in their 30s or 40s with loan from family or friends.
Bear in mind that the US has the largest economy since the 1900s. China is obviously playing catch up since the collapse of Qing dynasty in mid 1800s. The simple fact is every country is different in their development. It would be impossible for any heavy manufacturing industries to be founded in the 1980s in the US because the environment is no longer there.
Is it reasonable to knock the US for failing to produce any high speed train at all? The Japanese, the French, the German, and now the Chinese seems to have no trouble developing it. In the end it, national policy also affect the final outcome but to judge a country on not producing people like Steve Jobs is just plain narrow mindedness.
In China there is a booming construction for basic housing, infrastructure and telecommunication built up. If a Chinese company like Apple is to produce cell phone that sell for over RMB 4000, that would have been a real shocker!
You misunderstood me. China’s ‘intranet’ has nothing to do with “controlling cultural industry, social research, Bank loans, Sports System,” There are other avenues that the Chinese government can do it without promoting it in the internet.
I don’t think we should ignore severe consequences of the chaos of the masses. Just have an eye on those fools who rushed to purchase salt or anything else after being agitated by any kinds of nonsense, you may realize that the quotation of “民智未开 (the masses are still not smarter than expected) ” by a leader of reformers 100 years ago is still, partly reasonable. Noboby can, and dare to expect practical, rational ideas from massess who are lacking of common sense; what’s worse, not a few of them are just waiting for chaos and then fishing in troubled waters that the claim of freedom and human rights are not more than tools to these guys for taking place the previous domination. That’s why Chinese government is still restricting the media, and many things else.
The awareness of freedom in the west was born in renaissance, which lasted for more than 200 years. As to China, fair and appropriate education for the massess to make them study duties, rights, and laws must be implemented before releasing constraints. Not to mention Chinese government has already released a lot last 20 years.
Black Pheonix says
“I can’t agree more that there are severe consequences of the chaos of the masses! I think that’s why some people, including me, promote the social justice, the rule of law, a free press, balancing government power to prevent abuse of power. These improve social harmonies and reduce the risk for chaotic mass movements. crack down on the masses is, IMHO, 治标不治本.
what do you think?”
If you say so, but it sounds like you are back tracking from your “government control in China is an obstacle for innovation, not a promoter”.
if ‘government control in China’ is an obstacle for innovation, not a promoter’, how does ‘zhongziqi’ account for the strides in scie/tech research made by China these past few years? First and foremost being the quantum teleportation of a photon announced not 3 weeks ago?
stupid is as stupid does.
I don’t think I backtracked. but I think my point can use some clarification. if I understand correctly, your original point is that government control is not good, but without control, there will be chaos of the masses, which is worse. you offered your point as a defense for the government control in place today.
I agree with you about the consequences of the chaos but I disagree with you that the government regulation that is so abhorred by the republicans are the same as the Chinese government attempting to control (or micro manage) so many aspects of the society, economy, culture, etc.
I also disagreed with you that lack of government control are generally considered the main cause of chaos as you have implied. I think lack of “social justice, the rule of law, a free press, balancing government power to prevent abuse of power” is much more prominent causes for chaos. Government control is generally viewed as a way to suppress chaos. but harsh crack downs themselves are more chaotic than the chaos itself.
I don’t think the word obstacle equals no progress at all. the two nukes and a satellite were launched during the cultural revolution, which is probably not an environment favorable to innovation.
This such an interesting comment, and yet so challenging to respond. a topic like this would be something I would want to write an essay to enter the 2012 contest. But I think it would take me months to craft it so that it can precisely convey my disagreement of your point. but for the time being, I think I will start with the following questions:
what kind of people make up the mass?
what are the other categories of people aside from mass? may be the “educated” and the “officials”?
But my grossly simplified argument is that the worse chaos of masses in the 63 years of PRC history was brought upon by the then ruler(s) of China. Your reference to the salt rush does point to some interesting phenomenon in China. I don’t know about you but I actually buy in the ideas like Chinese are smarter than the rest of the human race, i.e., average IQ of 105 compared to the average of 100. So I think lack of a sense of security and trust as the result of the government’s lost of credibility in so many public health incidents probably played a much bigger role than the lack of reasoning skills you mentioned.
@Zack I don’t think the word obstacle equals no progress at all. the two nukes and a satellite were launched during the cultural revolution, which is probably not an environment favorable to innovation.
It actually meant atom bomb, ballistic missile and satellite. The program was started around 1956 when it was obvious that the Soviet will not provide the technology for them.
The CR is actually the biggest hindrance to scientific progress in China, it stopped tertiary education for 10 yrs and seriously affect ALL R&D projects.
I seriously doubt you are Chinese because you got this part of history so fundamentally wrong.
Don’t throw everything on CPC. You can’t blame CPC too much for their unsuccessful attempt on uniting masses who were lacking of awareness of order, law and faith. You should’ve blamed KMT government’s failing rules that bringing much more chaos (for example, civil wars among warloards from 1920s to 1930s) before strongly condemning CPC.
“Chinese are smarter than the rest of the human race”? I hate to see someone using some sorts of chauvinism when they’re just going to blame current systems. Not to mention I’m quoting “may”, “partly reasonable”.
It seems you would like to put all your faith in masses. But I follow the idea that “Masses are strong while masses themselves are also unauthentic.”
It amazes me how you jumped from that I got a historical fact wrong (from your baidu link, it seems like it is common misconception) that would lead to a serious doubt that I am not Chinese. I guess you nationalists have really really high standards about who qualifies to be Chinese, what Chinese should know, and how Chinese should think. Is it the case if someone doesn’t love the China that you guys define to be, then he doesn’t love China? You guys certainly have expressed strong pride of being Chinese and enthusiasm for protecting China’s reputation. and yet so much of the comments I see here are within the narrow set of ideas like China is doing really great and will be even better in the future, so any criticism from western media is defamation due to ignorance, arrogance, and hypocrisy. I don’t deny the validity of your views at all. and when I first found this place, I saw the “The danger of a single story” and was deeply touched, and impressed by the blog’s mission of “articulate and seek out Chinese perspectives”. and yet here I am gradually realizing that just like the western media have a concerted voice to promote a singular world view, this blog only view the nationalist view as Chinese view, any moderate opinions or reformist minds are labeled either non-Chinese, or trolls, even traitors. That to me is Chinese hypocrisy.
I would have liked to elaborate on this issue based on my understanding of the relationship between people and government. But I think this will be my last post, I better keep it short. the masses are the people (that I am one of) and and country is rightfully theirs. the CPC is the rulers (and they rightfully call them the ruling party). the ruling elites put their own interests first, not they country’s or the people’s. You may have a problem with the messes and are obsessed with stability just like the government. I two have a problem with the masses. but it is more in line with Lu Xun’s “哀其不幸，怒其不争”. I think they should stop eating bitter all the time and demand what’s rightfully theirs. there the the enlightened few that have the knowledge and courage to lead them like CGC. He defended the weak. that heroic.
I don’t know where you stand in the power structure of modern China. but I hope at least you think the masses are still Chinese, a people you claim to love. and all the other higher class Chinese have been in and out of the category of masses through out time. “王侯将相，宁有种乎？”
see this? I don’t think they behave that much differently from the masses. Livelihood is beyond classes, more or less (in $).
No, you got two very important historical facts wrong:
1. 两弹一星 is not two nukes, one satellite as you claimed.
2. The program was launched in 1956 not during the CR as you claimed.
Because you are using a mainland Chinese name. It is like an American who said Thomas Jefferson is the 1st president and Eisenhower is a general in the civil war. Pretty unacceptable history mistake by a mainland Chinese.
And you straight away jumped to the conclusion on the issue of nationalism. Are you afraid of being called out using a fake name? If that is an alias, fine but at least be honest.
In case you don’t know, I am not a Chinese citizen and never claim to be. I am very proud of my overseas heritage. There can be discussion about ideology but historical fact cannot be twisted.
And your respond to Sleeper sounded so patronizing and “unChinese” that I almost want to puke. In the Chinese language nobody speak of where “you stand in the power structure of China”. This is a common phrase and language used by foreign journalists. And you actually have this concept of ruler and masses!
I so loved your objectivity when it is clear that you ignored what I wrote.
“The CR is actually the biggest hindrance to scientific progress in China, it stopped tertiary education for 10 yrs and seriously affect ALL R&D projects. “
I just have to respond to this.
I love that you refer zhongziqi as a “mainland Chinese name”. I suppose it’s correct. but I never though about it that way. I didn’t realize that this blog preferred real names. I thought “实名制” only exist on Chinese internet. But at lest my choice of zhongziqi was to make it clear it was an alias.
that fact that you were not a Chinese citizen was never an issue. But I found it mildly amusing that a Chinese Malaysian or American is so eager to define what constitutes an unacceptable history mistake by a mainland Chinese. I never thought 两弹一星 was such important historical events. feel free to stress its importance all you want. but label someone who didn’t know as much about it as you do nonChinese seems, well, very Chinese(?).
and by launching I meant the launch of the tests and the satellite, not the program itself. and as you know the second nuke and the rocket/missile both occurred after the cr has started. and stories was put in textbooks to show how scientists worked together to achieve that amid ideological divide. I couldn’t think of a better example for my original point that progress can be made with the presence of obstacles.
you claimed that “the Chinese language nobody speak of where “you stand in the power structure of China”.” I wonder if you are familiar with the theories behind the communist movements, such as “割资本主义尾巴”， “打土豪，分田地”, or the more recent manifestation of the same power structure “你是站在党的一边，还是站在人民的一边”．
btw, love the word unChinese. It has the potential to be one of the catch phrase of the year one day, standing in its rightful place alongside Harmonized.
I would have liked to elaborate on this issue based on my understanding of the relationship between people and government.
There are lot kind of people : the rich, the media, the greedy, the parasites, the criminals, the hard-working people.
So taking power away from government is not equivalent to power to the people.
In reality, “power to the people” is more like :
Power to the rich;
power to the media and journalists.
power to the greedy and parasites.
power to the criminals
and finally, power to the hard-working people.
So stop the crap of “power to people” by western media. I am all ears if you talk about “Power to the hard-working people”.
BTW, in reality, “Freedom to the people” is more like :
Freedom to the rich;
Freedom to the media and journalists.
Freedom to the greedy and parasites.
Freedom to the criminals
and finally, Freedom to the hard-working people.
Taking power away from government is not equivalent to power to the people
Since 1992, Chinese have long realized that BASED ON THE FACTS.
If power would go to the people, you think Chinese would not be interested in western system?
Anyone who pay attention to facts would realize it, especially after what government did after 2008 financial crisis. Only the badly brainwashed people would still wave the used tissue by “free” media, or people who try to take China down.
“social justice, the rule of law, a free press, balancing government power to prevent abuse of power”
You have mentioned “free” press several times.
Give me an example of “free” media that forgives public figures who said something it doesn’t like.
Have you heard of Zhang-Danhong incident in Germany? how about Anita Dunn?
I visited Asia Sentinel lot of times, is it free? why are the voices of 1.3 billion Chinese never heard on it? Can you name a so-called free media from which you are able to hear the voices of 1.3 billion Chinese?
Free? what a joke, you don’t even have different opinions, and no public figures dare to say anything the “free” media doesn’t like, otherwise his political career is over.
In “free” world, the issue should be more about preventing “free” media messing up with government to such an extent that government simply won’t be able to work for people.
Don’t you think it is funny and logically stupid that on one side, the “free” media told people “government is your bitch”; on the other side, they demand the bitch to help people ?
Those mouth-bigger-than-butt anchors should go back to school to learn basic logic. To prove that, all you have to do is asking them who are to be blamed for wide-spread economical mismanagement under democrap?
Do you know the logic conclusion would be if those big mouth anchors blame the issue on government?
Use your OWN brain.
Such grandstanding BS. If you want promote social justice and rule of law why not join the CPC and try to reform it from within? What is the point of a free press if the information reported by this free press are biased and inaccurate? If you want a free press why not ask the media (Chinese and Western) to report the facts and not make up their own news?
More importantly, how about leaving Chinese themselves to decide how their nation should be run rather than forcing your own political ideologies on them?
I’m sorry to yinyang, Allen and other authors of this blog. I just show my attitude that If that hypocrite would like to make some exhortation, just do this in Chinese, if he/she can.
Black Pheonix says
Sounds like Zhongziqi is living in the 1960’s.
they are very civil for sure(i.e., it’s not their English that matters, it’s their class). I hope people like them will become the ones that defines modern China, not the nationalists barking at everyone.
anyway, no need for another round of name calling. I won’t be back for sure.
Black Pheonix says
To be civil, no need for your parting shot on your way out.
You see these trolls are the reason I wrote the satire piece https://hiddenharmonies.org/2012/03/should-chinese-be-allowed-to-vote-on-the-upcoming-us-presidential-election/
Imagine Chinese netizens go and comment on any US election. Telling US citizens how wrong their choice is and how to vote? They would be jumping up and down saying that Chinese are not allow to interfere in their affairs.
The major problem with these trolls is they think they are so morally superior but are all hypocrites who like others to do as they are told not as they do. This line should summarize how they all feel.
“I think that’s why some people, including me, promote the social justice, the rule of law, a free press, balancing government power to prevent abuse of power.”
These trolls have been coming under different alias. I have no problem with that but I hate it when they pretend to be Chinese national using names like beijingboy, shanghaikid, zhongziqi etc.
If we use alias like Washington, Churchill, Lincoln etc to comment. It is actually pretty rude to pretend.
The first time I heard the term unChinese was actually from a mainland guest of mine visiting in Malaysia. Many Chinese restaurants there provides big spoon and fork for guests to eat rice on a plate. My friend made that comment when he see that. Anyway, it is very common in Malaysia/Singapore. In fact in Indian, Malay restaurant it is the same, it is sort of a Malaysian standardization thing. Hainanese chicken rice is usually serve that way, not in a traditional rice bowl and chopsticks.
They can rain all they want for they have no career, family, friend in China, while I have a lot. They can inject mental poison into the body of China irresponsibly, for they don’t need to care about the result and side effect that China is just a playground of their silly political games, while I can’t afford the place where I was born and raised becoming a war zone. That’s the key difference between I and them in emotion when talking about social problems in China.
Going back to the topic of creativity. It is true that Hollywood is a hot bed of that but also of copying. I am not talking about remake. Almost every year there are rival studios coming up with very similar themed movies. I would add Rob Roy and Braveheart for 1995.
Nike sends their designers to Shanghai and Beijing to ‘watch’ what Chinese fashions sell well to bring back to the U.S. as design ‘inspirations.’
I actually think Nike is very smart. The type of arrogance exhibited by this Fallows’ piece is giving China a huge leg up in absorbing ideas as compared to the West.