Category Archives: News and politics

Cambridge University Press accused of ‘selling its soul’ over Chinese censorship | World news | The Guardian

Academics and activists decry publisher’s decision to comply with a Chinese request to block more than 300 articles from leading China studies journal

Source: Cambridge University Press accused of ‘selling its soul’ over Chinese censorship | World news | The Guardian

The imperial government strikes again, and unfortunately, there’s not a lot the CUP can do about it if it wants China Quarterly to remain partly accessible in China, which is a step ahead of a complete block on the journal.

The comments in the Guardian article are from people who, it seems, should know the score. What did they expect might happen in a country with a frog-in-a-well mentality where the sky keeps getting further away as the walls rise higher and higher? What did they expect from an increasingly censorious regime?

One of the more sensible comments in the whole article is “[Andrew] Nathan said China’s list of censorship demands to the CUP appeared to have been generated “by a naive machine search of article and review titles” which had targeted key words and names deemed sensitive. He called the move “a useless overreach” by Beijing.” This tallies with my own view that Chinese censorship is cloddish, often knocking out harmless websites because on the basis of one site, the entire host is treated as if it’s tainted.

I also agree with Nathan’s subsequent comment, “What can it accomplish? I’m sorry to say that information control often works. But if you have so much money, staff, and time, that you can burrow down to the level of censoring academic publications in a foreign language that could only be used by your own academic community, then I think your censorship organs are over funded and you would do well to cut their budgets. As the saying goes, this is lifting up a stone only to drop it on one’s own foot.” Let’s not forget that the Chinese government spends more money on internal security than it does on the armed forces. Let’s also not forget the armed forces are there to defend the government first and foremost.

There’s little the CUP can do about this because even if this is a consequence of stupid AI identifying material from a niche, subscription-only (?) market, the government has a low level of tolerance for honest and open discussions and analyses of Tibet, Taiwan, Tiananmen Square, the Cultural Revolution, and all those other noble episodes in recent Chinese history. With behaviour like this, China will merely continue to be top in all the categories no country should be proud to be top in.

23.08.17. The CUP reversed their decision after a lot of self-righteous whining mostly from Americans, who might whine a little less if they had to endure the levels of censoriousness and thought manipulation which afflict China. On the other side of the coin is the implication that the CUP was really only thinking about its bank balance.

The truth is that no foreign company can expect to operate outside of the law in China, but the sadder truth is that the law here is so vague that the articles probably violate it in some way, or can be claimed to violate it without there being much chance of arguing the matter to the contrary, in a system where there’s no effective constraint on arbitrariness.

Online Poll Asks Chinese Hopes for Future, And Democracy Wins in Landslide | Tea Leaf Nation

Online Poll Asks Chinese Hopes for Future, And Democracy Wins in Landslide | Tea Leaf Nation.

Not, I think a big surprise, since liberal Chinese appear to be well represented on Weibo.

I still believe that China needs the rule of law, freedom of speech, a free press, a massive reduction in Internet censorship, a government which doesn’t think that the people are the enemy, and a sense of personal responsibility before the Empire even bothers with democracy.

Of these, the last is, I think, of particular importance. So long as the Party Boys are holed up in their clubhouse and the people are left in ignorance outside, they (the people) can’t really have a sense that they matter.

One of the problems with democracy elsewhere seems to be that people have regained the sense that nothing they say, think, or do will ultimately affect the governance of their lives. Bankers and business buggered Europe, and the people have ended up paying.

I’m not blind to the fact that democracy is organic and the soil in which it grows is different from place to place. I doubt whether the Chinese government will ever grow out of its obsessive desire to control (i.e., democracy as a five-year plan), but look at the British government and some of its ridiculous obsessions over the past fifteen years or so; yet it claims to be democratic. Excuse me while I snort derisively.

So the foreigner really did make a mistake

The quirks of the imperial mafia.

Well, as we all know, Gu Kailai got away with murder as the punters ex­pected she probably would. Much as I deplore the culture of whacking people in this country, it would seem that premeditated murder should have got Gu dragged off to some distant field and her brains splattered all over it. As for the defence, I’d assume that Neil Heywood as an Old China Hand would’ve known better than to threaten anyone in Bo Xilai’s family. Will we ever know the truth or come close to it?

Meanwhile all those fat little Asian babies continue their infantile squab­bles about some rocks in the South China Sea. It seems to me that none of them have any clear and unequivocal claim to this particular piece of water since, I expect, they will’ve all been criss-crossing it for centuries.

I’ve been reading stories about some foreigner in Zhengzhou nearly caus­ing a riot by allegedly slapping and spitting on some Chinese woman for bumping into his car. No details about the man himself, but foreigners driving cars here are relatively rare, and in all my time in the Empire, I can only recall ever having seen one, which was in Tiananmen Square in Bei­jing not too long after I arrived. As for his behaviour, if he did indeed assault the woman, he was asking for trouble.

According to the LA Times, there have been changes to the requirements for tourist visas for China. The one which has me scratching my head is the “letter of invitation”, which, the article says, should come from a duly authorised tourism unit. It sounds like the Empire is trying to force tourists to go on package tours rather than just turn up and wander about where they please: more stage management to keep people away from the warts? It would appear to make it difficult for foreigners principally coming here to visit family members or friends. I wouldn’t be too surprised if the im­ple­mentation of these new rules and regulations is haphazard, though. Back in 2005, the Chinese Embassy in London proved to be a monstrous pain in the arse for me because they were still working on the old system after a new one had been introduced.

You can say whatever we tell you to

Or, The Heir Apparent and the ex-PM.

I got up this morning to find a news item on the BBC about the Empire blocking the Bloomberg website. I wasn’t at all surprised to find that the article on the BBC site was also blocked. Talk about a red rag to a bull. I just had to open channel D and find out what was going on.

The fuss was about an article on Bloomberg detailing (as far as possibly) the wealth of the family of the heir apparent, who himself is outwardly squeaky clean while the rest of the clan have millions, including some place in Repulse Bay in Hong Kong. (I know exactly where, too.)

Contrast this story, which will be rigorously suppressed on the Mainland, with the tale of the former Dear Leader, Mr T. Blair, and his tax affairs published in The Guardian. (Tony Blair insists that he does not avoid paying tax.) The two stories are about politicians trying to at least hide their wealth and information about it. In one case, the state connives to aid such concealment; in the other, the press can report such a thing provided the facts have been checked and nothing inappropriate has been said. The Empire and the UK may share a few too many things in common (secret­ive government obsessed with controlling the people; surveillance state), but here’s one point where the two differ in what people may know about their former and future leaders.

It’s also ironic that the Empire aids and abets Blair as well because The Guardian website is blocked beyond the front page.

I’ve finally seen a picture of CY Leung, the new Chief Executive of Hong Kong, who looked to me like the very model of an oily imperial governor. I expect that sooner or later he might be badly photoshopped into some picture where he floats, godlike, above some anonymous stretch of road as his oily counterparts often do on the Mainland.

Time to open channel D.

Gentleman with visual impairment leaves embassy

BBC News – China activist Chen Guangcheng leaves US embassy.

Remember that fellow, Comical Ali, from Iraq? I think he’s working for the Empire. The BBC report says

The spokesman said Beijing did not accept the “interference”, and re­minded the US to obey international and Chinese law.

Since the Chinese don’t obey Chinese law, I think the rest of us are off the hook. As for international law, the imperial government probably thinks it only applies to foreigners.

It is not inevitable that the EU – or democracy – will survive this mess | Comment is free | The Guardian

It is not inevitable that the EU – or democracy – will survive this mess | Comment is free | The Guardian.

Another doom-and-gloom article about the alleged failure of democracy. Is Europe now headed into the Age of Benign Dictatorships? Unlike the inGlorious Motherland, people could still criticise the government, who would then tell them to bugger off. Oh, hang on. That’s the current system, which is occasionally punctuated by another election after which nothing ever happens.

As I might’ve mentioned, I happened to stray back to the Political Com­pass just recently (where I’m still a left-wing liberal). Your average pol­it­ic­ian in a democratic country seems to be a right-wing authoritarian, who’s only a couple of steps short of declaring themselves President-for-Life, and then turning their governance of the country into a family firm. Mmmm. Does that mean the Arab world has become Europe and Europe will be­come the Arab world?

This is… Excuse me while another entry interrupts

The event was so traumatic that it aged him 25 years.

I’ve noted elsewhere the trend in the media to age people. Someone who’s 28 on R4 one day has become 29 the next day. The phenomenon is com­mon enough for this to be one occasion when I’m not exaggerating for ef­fect. But today, The Guardian wins the prize.

Man banned from carrying pens

Asbo given to 24-year-old who wrote abusive comments about women in public lavatories and buses

Note the man’s age. Now let’s turn to the article:

David Jell, 49, is also prohibited from carrying spray paint and displaying rude comments or nicknames in a public place under the terms of the three-year order.

I can confirm from a quick search that the man is actually 49, so where The Graun got 24 from, I don’t know. I see that even has a picture of marker pens in its story (Graffiti man banned from owning felt tip pens), which will, no doubt, prevent conversations like this arising:

Kentish Yokel#1: Isn’t that David Jell? He looks a bit aged for someone who’s 24.
Kentish Yokel#2: He’s not 24. He’s actually 49.
Kentish Yokel#1: Seems that you really can’t trust the media. [Slight pause] Hold on a mo’. Isn’t that a marker pen in his hand?
Kentish Yokel#2: No it’s not. There were pictures of them on the kentnews website. No, I’d say that’s a serrated-edged dagger which he’s brandishing in a menacing fashion. Lucky for him his Asbo didn’t cover them.

You’ve had your fun

Foreigners are not just for Christmas.

I see from Beijing gags anti-Western online anger that Nanny is now trying to dampen down online nationalist hysteria directed against the West be­fore it perhaps spills over into reality.

Good censorship or bad censorship? It’s definitely another manifestation of the doctrine of harmony and social stability, which is really what’s driving this. But should people be prevented from expressing their grievances on line no matter how misinformed or self-deluding they might’ve been in the first place? Of course, when the hysterical reactionaries fume and rant on line here, there may be a reaction in the real world.

My feeling is that this is bad censorship (with a fairly small b), but I can understand why Nanny might be out with her Internet tippex on this part­i­cular subject this year.

Meanwhile (and tangentially related), in recent months I’ve increasingly felt that the term “the West” is empty and meaningless. It seems to be a short-hand for a set of ideas which are loosely applicable across a range of disparate countries. For example, American culture isn’t Western culture, and not really representative of it. At best, I suppose the West is a group of countries whose culture is rooted in European culture; whose governments are nominally democratic; whose media is supposedly free to say what it likes without fear of censorship or retribution. But we don’t all share the same values, and the notion that the West is somehow liberal is laughable. Westerners might have a greater licence to express themselves and criticise their governments, but their sentiments are not necessarily liberal, and their attitudes not necessarily open.

April Fool’s Day

No kidding.

I had some of the kids in Class 16 wishing me Happy Fool’s Day. It’s another one of those Western things they know of but know nothing about, although one kid had tried to play a joke on his classmates.

4xy3k0 Anyway, you’ve probably seen this infamous picture and know that the chap on the right (and indeed, probably the whole lot of them) is a ringer. The picture featured on the front page of the local paper. The first time I saw it, I doubted its authenticity. What I thought seemed wrong was the group of people in the foreground. They all look Han Chinese to me. That’s not to say that I’d win every time at Spot-the-Τιβέταν, but I see enough Тибэтанс in Chengdu to know that this lot don’t really look like them. They also often wear traditional Τιβέταν clothing and wear it properly. Even if it wasn’t know that the man with the knife is a fraud, his clothing gives him away. The only award he’d get would be for Sloppiest Dresser in Тибэт.

I also note, now that I look at the picture again, that the man burning the flag can’t be identified, and reconsidering the crowd, I observe they’re milling around. They have no particular interest in the burning of the flag. Some of them are looking one way; some are looking the other. There’s no sense of unity or focus. The whole thing is another instance of street theatre, but less entertaining because the audience is part of the performance.

In fact, the more I look at this photo, the more fake it seems, but it may have been touched up a little. The colours seem strangely vibrant. If you look too hard at it, everything starts to look superimposed.

Meanwhile, blogspot remains absolutely and utterly blocked. The work-round I’ve been using for over a year(?) seems not to be working any longer. I’ve just found that the Rutgers University website is behaving as if it’s been blocked. I can’t get onto the ROA and I’ve just tried Jack Lynch’s pages there, only to have the door slammed in my face as well. Looks like anonymouse is also being kicked in the nuts. When I tried to check the ROA via that service, it was clear there was some (deliberate) interference somewhere along the line.

I can understand why blogspot might be inaccessible, but the ROA and, it’d seem, a whole university website? It’s possible, of course, there are other things at issue which I’m unaware of, but this is really stupid.

I’m guessing that blogspot will be restored during the Olympics and then probably killed off yet again. (Considering how frequently it’s been resurrected, perhaps it should be renamed Lazarus.) Whether the work-round also ever functions again I can’t say at this time. [20.08.14. I was right about blogspot. Access was restored during the approach to the Olympics and then got killed off afterwards; that may have had less to do with Tibet than it did to do with Google refusing to censor search results.] Will access be restored to the ROA? Presumably; though why a site devoted to the distribution of papers in Optimality Theory should be blocked is, as I said above, stupid. Once more, Nanny’s idiot antics inconvenience the expats and pretty much no one else.

Danwei has an entry Why do Chinese Internet users like government controls? which is about a survey of Chinese Internet habits, usage, views of government controls etc. Interesting info, but all rather depressing. I wonder how many people answered truthfully and how many merely said what they thought the questioner was expecting to hear.

Time to stop banging my head against this brick wall. “Sensible” and “rational” are not two words that I’m likely to use in connection with this subject.

That’s half the story

Smash and grab.

Yesterday, the kids in Class 5 wanted to watch a DVD of footage recorded from CCTV news of the events in Τιβέτ. Although the coverage was clear­ly biased (no scenes of Chinese police quelling demonstrators), it was also clear that some of the protests were motivated less by aspirations for Ти­б­этан iνδεπένδενcε than by the pleasure of wanton vandalism. A bunch of people were attacking a branch of the Bank of China, but I can’t imagine the money inside even came into consideration.

Some of the images I’ve seen could be from anywhere in China. Something happens and everyone else stands around gawping. The “struggle” for Τι­β­έταν фрээдом was reduced to mere street theatre. In other words, they’re not all necessarily fighting the good fight.

[15.08.14. I’m keeping this entry partly because it undermines the idea that unrest in Tibet is all about fighting the good fight against the forces of occupation. I’m also keeping it because it relates to sensationalism and bias in the media, which is an aspect which we look at in IB English B.]