There are several recent pieces on China's internet controls that are worth reading if you haven't already looked at them. First, "How China Polices the Internet" at Financial Times, gives an interesting account of what David Bandurski has called China's "Control 2.0," an increasingly adept deployment of online discourse on behalf (rather than at the expense) of the government. After vigorous online debate emerged over a Yunanese man's suspicious death while in police custody, officials did not just cut off discussion:
Wu Hao, deputy propaganda chief for the area, put out an online appeal for “netizens” to help investigate the case. Within hours, thousands had signed up. Wu picked a group of 15, among them some of the bloggers who had been most vocal in attacking the police’s behaviour and in fuelling the debate. He invited them to tour the Jinning detention facility and be briefed by the wardens. State media outlets ran stories about the bloggers entering through the heavy metal door that had banged shut behind Li three weeks earlier.
And while the blogger investigation committee couldn’t do much real investigating – its members were refused access to surveillance camera footage and to key witnesses – the stunt proved a coup for Wu. The bloggers released a report concluding that they knew too little to give a proper assessment of what had happened, while provincial prosecutors announced that Li had not died from playing blind man’s bluff but had been beaten to death by another prisoner. Soon, the debate died down.
For more on this topic, see David Bandurski's recent piece on government control of the internet, "Are China's Leaders Becoming More Responsive?", at China Media Project. Those who were not reading China Beat last summer may enjoy the tongue-in-cheek piece Bandurski published here in July 2008, "Things We'd Rather You Not Say on the Web, Or Anywhere Else":
We must not forget – and this begins with not remembering – how Zhao Ziyang said on May 6, 1989, in the midst of popular demonstrations, that propaganda leaders should “open things up just a bit.” “There is no big danger in that,” he said. His words were careless, and the end result was chaos. Nobody wants chaos. Just try to picture what it does to GDP.At her blog (now cleverly titled "Records of a Grad Historian"), Gina Anne Russo writes about what it is like to be a foreign woman in China:
Comrade Zhao, you see, failed to understand the real power of words. He failed to understand that the Party and the masses must not be too profligate with them if they are to “do the great work of socialism with Chinese characteristics.” That is why the Party had to step in afterwards to reorder your words and ideas. We have our own word for this: “guidance of public opinion.” Say it with me: “guidance of public opinion.”
Good. Now, dear citizens, I think it is best to instruct you with a couple of examples of what I mean about words. This way you will understand how to use them with responsibility and care, correctly upholding – say it with me – “GUIDANCE of PUBLIC OPINION.” Right. I hope these examples will help you remember how to forget the right things.
I think my awareness of how most Chinese people see me comes to discussions about Sex and the City. I won't deny that I love that show, but the dangers of exporting such a liberal hyperbole of American male/female relationships became clear to me when Chinese girls began telling me that life in America is very "kaifang" or "open," just like Sex and the City. Statements about this show often are accompanied by a look of both interest and disdain; most Chinese girls admire the independence and openness with which American women can live their lives, but also consider them to be a bit too morally degenerate, which is why Chinese society is better. At first, I found these statements funny, but this quickly became something that made me incredibly angry and defensive. As a woman who is quite proud of my independence and my personal choices, I hated being pigeonholed into this "morally degenerate" category. But it seemed like a losing battle; for everyone I told that this was not the case for even most American woman, 10 other Chinese people would continue to have this same stereotype. Over time, I came to hate that show and the way it represented white American women...
And this stereotype was furthered by advertisements found all over Shanghai ... Almost all advertisements about lingerie or sexy clothing had white women; advertisements showing good wives or girlfriends in cutesy scenarios were more often than not Chinese. One particular advertisement made me feel naseous; it showed a man and a woman on top of each other, and he is about to touch in her in a way that should be R rated, and not all over the subway (meanwhile, of course, she is all bust). I thought about how the Chinese would react if that girl were not blonde, but instead Zhang Ziyi or some other Chinese star; it would have looked completely out of place. I actually wrote about this when I was writing my thesis last year, as photos in women's magazines from the 1930s had similar patterns of putting white women in more liberal situations. What I argued (and would argue still) is that this allowed the Chinese population to live vicariously in this liberal, modern society without feeling to threatened by too MUCH moral openness. In a sense, they enjoyed the idea of the liberalism, but also wanted to maintain their own standards of morality and culture, and by seeing white women act this way, their own ideas about morality weren't under threat. ...
John Pasden, who keeps the blog "Sinosplice" and also works at ChinesePod, tries an experiment with the Google translator at "Translation Party" (an enormously diverting website, particularly given, as Pasden notes, the simplicity of its concept). Here is the image Pasden shares at his website (see the original at his Flickr page):