I have long maintained that boycotts rarely work well as a tool of political protest. Even when mobilized as a collective national action like a trade embargo, history has not shown much effectiveness in causing political change, other than merely increasing bitterness (like the Embargo against Cuba).
Against a much larger target, with even broader scope, such as “boycott China”, the sheer size of lunacy of such a proposition is immediately apparent. Chinese economy is not pinned down in a few special economic sectors, it’s large and diverse, and most importantly international. It produces final products and components and material. It’s not merely economical for businesses, it’s necessity of businesses to buy Chinese products.
But even more interestingly, the increase in the internet economy has shown that it’s not just companies like Walmart that dictates the improbability of “boycott China”, it’s increasingly the end user purchasers who are making it impossible to “boycott China”.
Is it possible to stop people from discussing news or current affairs on the Internet? The answer is easy: obviously not. I can’t see how that is possible without shutting the Internet down completely. And, what does it mean to be an “enemy of the internet” anyway? To qualify for that, wouldn’t a nation state be engaging in destroying Internet infrastructure globally or doing everything possible to shunt the productive potential of the Internet for humankind? Continue reading Putting BBC’s propaganda against Vietnam to the test→
As you may know, there is a heated high-profile war being waged in the U.S. now over a new bill called SOPA (“Stop Online Piracy Act” in the House) and PIPA (“Protect Intellectual Property Act” in the Senate). The bills have been temporarily put on hold, but the issues highlighted by the controversies will not go away.
Before this year really gets going (yes I know I have been out of commission from blogging for a while, a state which may continue for just a while longer), I thought I’d post my own little post reflecting on the Wikileaks incidient – which I think illustrate important issues relating to “freedom.”
The controversy over Wikileaks has evoked strong emotions on all sides here in the U.S. On the one hand, you have those like the U.S. government preaching responsibility, claiming that publication would harm the lives and U.S. interests around the world – that being responsible is necessary to preserving our liberty. On the other hand, you have those like Assange clamoring free speech, raising the specter of a government that can never be trusted.
In the midst of these debates, many have understandably come to see freedom as a balance between competing needs. This is however a mistake.
The EU begins officially to investigate Google for alleged anti-competitive practices. According to this aljazeera report,
European Union regulators are to investigate whether Google has abused its dominant position in the online search market in what will be the first major inquiry into the internet giant’s business practices.
The competition watchdogs formally announced their investigation on Tuesday after complaints by rivals that Google gave their services “unfavourable treatment” in unpaid and sponsored search results.
Authorities will investigate whether Google’s services are being given preferential placement in search engine results, some of which may lead to consumer spending.
One of the complainants, British search site Foundem, said in a that its revenue “pales next to the hundreds of billions of dollars of other companies’ revenues that Google controls indirectly through its search results and sponsored links”.
Recently, in light of the stink Google stirred up leaving China, many pundits in the West have opined how the Internet is inherently anti-government, how the Chinese government is too draconian in its control of the Internet, even how the second law of thermodynamics and “freedom” will eventually triumph.
Champagne corks are undoubtedly popping in Redmond on reports that Google is planning to close its Chinese search service.
Google will try to maintain its other operations in China but this is unlikely to succeed. Any foreign business requires the approval of the Chinese government. Google has shown itself to be in opposition to the Chinese government — this is an untenable position.
This also means that Google will unlikely be able to take part in joint ventures with others in China. In early February, Reuters reported that Google is a member of a consortium led by Disney, to buy a large stake in Bus Online, a large Chinese advertising company.
It’s difficult to see how this deal will go through with Google as a member, if it is an opponent to the government.
Last month, Xinhua News had an interesting piece of “被时代” – which translates roughly to “era of being forced” or “era of acceptance.” 被 (bei) in Chinese indicates a passive clause. Thus when you get hit (撞), you say 你被撞了.
According to an Internet poll, the most popular Chinese character of 2009 was “被.” Why? Part of the reason is that living in a society charging full steam ahead, many Chinese no doubt feel they are losing control of their lives. But the more important reason is that it provides a satirical platform for many to express the indignity many average Chinese have suffered at the hand of social inequity and irresponsible governance. Here is a rough translation of the Xinhua article. Continue reading Translation: Living in an Era of Change – Era of Acceptance→
It’s not often a guy working on his PhD in theoretical computer science is also one of the hottest Chinese DJs in North America, but there’s always an exception and Louis Yu (余雷) fits that role. Originally from Guilin, China, he’s currently in Vancouver, Canada studying at the University of Victoria while also doing a weekly podcast featuring world indie music.
And where can you find his 30 minute weekly podcast? It’s right here on www.wooozy.cn where you can catch this week’s show plus access the archive for all previous editions once you’re hooked. The difference with Louis’ show is that all the introductions are in Mandarin rather than English. It’s his way to bring a new style of music to an audience more familiar with Asian pop in a easy to digest manner. Starting in September, he’ll be switching to a show highlighting an equal balance of both Western & Chinese music.
Lou was kind enough to share his thoughts on China’s current music scene. As he is a Chinese expat very familiar with indie music throughout the world, I felt his opinions would be a nice contrast to the western voices we’ve heard reporting from China.
This is the full session between Niall Ferguson and James Fallows at the recently held Aspen Ideas Festival. Allen had posted excepts and we promised you the complete discussion as soon as it became available. Niall Ferguson had coined the term “Chimerica” to describe the symbiotic relationship between the economies of China and the United States. He currently sees this relationship as being in jeopardy, while James Fallows feels the relationship is far stronger the most realize. This video is slightly over 75 minutes.
It seems the western media and Chinese blogosphere agree on one thing; Green Dam is not winning any popularity contests. Today, the Chinese government backed down on the mandatory usage of the software, though it will still come either pre-loaded or be included on a compact disc with all PCs sold on the mainland from July 1st.
There are several problems associated with this software, each one an interesting topic in itself. I’d like to run down the issues associated with its release, one by one.
Have you ever heard of this thing called Plurk? Well, just heard about them, and the context presented is big bad Chinese government banning some (not so) popular micro messaging website – seemingly as lead-in to bring emphasis to the 20th Anniversary of TAM, by the best China propaganda tool my tax dollar can buy, Radio Free Asia.
Plurk.com also posted its plight on it’s own website. Plurk, you are well advised to not merely bitch and moan about it on your blocked website, but instead try to understand China’s laws in this regard.
In US we outlaw on-line child pronography, and some Arab countries don’t even allow wemen’s uncovered face on websites. As logic follows, China, as a sovereign nation, has the right to regulate information that traverse its sovereign territory.
Now, where would you go to get yourself legit and unblocked in China? You might want to start with industry counterparts in China, and some sound, local, legal advise. Here are couple starting points.
– China Ministry of Information Industry: http://www.miibeian.gov.cn
– Beijing Association of On-line Media (an information industry non-profit): http://baom.sina.com.cn/english
There’s a new phenomenon sweeping China. Back in January on a Chinese web page, a new video made its way from there into the hearts of internet users all across the country, spawning a wave of related items such as cartoons, documentaries and grass-mud horse dolls.
President Obama has not exactly started out making a great impression that he will bring U.S.-China relations to a new high – what with unwelcomed vague belligerent references against communist and authoritarian governments in his inaugural speech, followed up by now Treasury Secretary’s Geithner’s sharp tone and use of the legally-loaded term “currency manipulation” in Geithner’s confirmation hearings (I don’t want to get into the “currency manipulation” debate here since we will have specific posts on those topics soon). Continue reading Should Obama Learn to Engage the Chinese People through the Internet?→
For many Chinese website operators, 2009 didn’t start very well. China Internet Illegal Information Reporting Centre, a semi-government agency, has published a list of websites which contain “vulgar and unhealthy information” deemed to be harmful to the country’s youth. The list (in Chinese) can be found here.
The interesting thing about this list is that it covered majority of the most popular websites in China. Google was ranked number one “vulgar” site (see, e.g., NYTimes article), followed by Baidu and Sina.
While looking into the Pew Global Attitudes Survey (which deserves a blog post of its own), I came across these interesting results highlighted by Pew, with the title ‘Few in China Complain About Internet Controls‘. This survey was conducted in 2007:
Over four years of tracking user reaction, trust in the reliability of online content has fallen by one-half, from 52% in 2003 to 26% now.
Only about one-third of internet users (30%) said they considered online content reliable.5
An overwhelming number of Chinese, almost 84%, agreed that the internet should be controlled or managed.
Since 2005, the percentage of users who say that online content about “politics” should be controlled or managed jumped from 8% to 41%, by far the biggest increase of any items tested.
It’s fair to wonder whether the survey is fully representative. After looking at the methodology in detail (pdf) (which polled 2000 urban residents in 5 cities), I think these numbers do give us at least a fuzzy picture of common trends.
This all tells me that perhaps we shouldn’t expect much liberalization online in the near future. There’s just too little popular demand for it.
And the newest expression sweeping the Chinese internet: “I don’t give a $@*&; I’m just here to buy soy sauce.” (关我鸟事，我出来打酱油的)
It comes to us from Guangzhou TV last December, when an average man on the street was asked his opinion about a pressing social issue (the Edison Chen photo scandal if you must know). He gave a very, uh, candid and straight response.
This works very well with the Chinese sense of humor, and has just exploded in usage over the past few months. It’s taken on other meanings now without a clear definition… but I’d summarize it as: “I’m cynical as hell.” As rumors of official corruption after the earthquake were swirling, the emotional young Internet crowd often turned to this phrase when they felt frustration, but had little else to add… at least without having their post deleted by censors. (“More corruption? Whatever, who gives a $@*%, I’m just here to buy soy sauce.”)
Many people probably know that the number of people going on line in China has just recently, officially, passed the number of people going online in the United States . (Many believe China passed the United States long ago, since hundreds of millions login through anonymous internet-cafes where they aren’t “counted”.) But many people might not understand what this really means from a practical impact point of view.
Perhaps due to cultural reasons, or perhaps due to political reasons, or perhaps just due to demographics… just as in the real world, life on the internet is substantially different in China from what it is in the United States. I want to introduce a few of these differences to the English-speaking world.
Tianya remains one of China’s most popular and famous message forum sites (and partly owned by Google). At any given time during the day, Tianya will have anywhere from 50,000 to 250,000 viewers. Interesting threads will stay active for years at a time, accumulating tens of thousands of replies. Active threads (like those following recent Olympics torch rallies) will build up thousands of replies within the matter of one or two days. Numerous, significant, nation-changing “movements” have come out of Tianya.