Tuesday, September 30, 2003


China observes a national holiday from 1 till 7 October (but things have started already). Although for colleagues who smell a juicy story holidays do not count.

Monday, September 29, 2003

Japanese sex II

The orgy of 400 Japanese tourists and 500 consenting Chinese women keeps on hitting the headlines, and emotions keep on boiling.
Today, for example in the China Daily, more official comments after an unknown number of suspects have been arrested. In the official reactions the stress lies again on the – technically illegal – act of prostitution. The political sensitive anti-Japanese comment of yesterday that partly acknowledged that the sex part was not that important, have been revered.
"Foreign citizens must obey Chinese laws here in China," spokesman Kong of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said. I guess that if it would be that easy, also the Chinese would stick to the law.

Sunday, September 28, 2003

Japanese orgy triggers off outrage

Chinese internet users went on a virtual rampage after they discovered about a Japanese orgy in Zhuhai, Guangdong province, the state-press reveals. A two-day event involving 400 male Japanese and 500 Chinese women in a five-star hotel triggered off emotions, not because of what happened, but because of the date, from 16 to 18 September.
That was just before the 72nd anniversary of the Japanese occupation of China and that triggered off only days ago angry responses, as the news was disclosed.
At the time, nobody reported the incident to the police, but now the Zhuhai International Convention Centre has been closed for further investigation.

Saturday, September 27, 2003

Xinhua plays the Asia card

Often people send me an email on a bit of Chinese news they have picked up and wonder what it means. A colleague at a Dutch TV station with a question on a Chinese medical story: brains of office workers deteriorate faster because of lack of exercise, reported by the Dutch ANP. That seems like a classic story that has been invented to fill the room in media.
Another one reported a call by the vice-president Ma Shengrong of Xinhua on his Asian colleagues to get together in Asian alliances to fight off western dominance. That will be true but nonsense also: Xinhua is a state-owned propaganda machine that is important inside China, but seldom taken serious as a news source elsewhere. Not surprisingly this news came to me through Xinhua, and nobody else.

Thursday, September 25, 2003

FT censored in Beijing

At last a decent case of censorship in Beijing again. We do not get them too often. Four pages of the Financial Times have been taken out at the stands, reports the Indian newsagency PTI. It has been a long time since we heard about the paper censor being active.
I have tried to find out what the censor might find offensive about these pages, the first of a 3-part contribution to the Sino-Indian relations, but unfortunately their web site did not carry this article.
Mostly this kind of action is rather limited. Subscribers mostly get the full paper, while also the rest of the country doesn't feel the tough hand of the Beijing censor. Wonder why it is not online, even not on the paid section.

Wednesday, September 24, 2003

The asset discussion

One of the more sensitive discussions is on the state assets. As China changes from a planned economy into a market economy selling off those assets is a hot issue, especially as it gives room to for example managers to earn a fortune illegally.
Management buy outs have been banned, reports the Hong Kong edition of the China Daily today, and gives a nice overview of the opinions among experts in the field.
A sign of the changing role of the media in “The last land grab”

Tuesday, September 23, 2003

Copy and paste the Chinese media

At www.c-biz.org we have started recently to use more often Chinese media. Until not so long ago those media were hardly worth to monitor, but more and more especially financial reporters are doing their job much better. After the relaunch of our site we will even have a special section with news from the Chinese media
Others are doing it also, I discovered today. The Financial Times has copied and pasted actually two articles from Chinese media and brings it as their own news: the opening up of the media distribution market and an article on new regulations for the stock exchanges.
They still copy and paste it in Beijing, but when things develop further, they might as well do it from a sweatshop in London.

Monday, September 22, 2003

Another five years to go

"Five years from now, China's publishing market will be totally open to the world, with no limits on capital or proportion of funds," said Liu Binjie, deputy director of the General Administration of Press and Publication, writes the China Daily on Monday. This government department, directly under the Communist Party, is in charge of the domestic media in China.

China’s media have been cheering up the first – rather minor – opening of the publishing world for the outside media. The first private company got permission to distribute magazines.
That is still very far away from a full opening of the media market and the enthusiasm of the Chinese media seems to be government-directed. Five years is an eternity in China and to far away to really think about the consequences. That is one of the fun things of the five-year plans that are still in place. A good reason to throw a party and still no need to worry about the results.

Sunday, September 21, 2003

Internet censor backs off a bit

You remember still that last year the Chinese Internet police decided to install new censorfilters on the internet and in an act of wisdom they decided to block the whole of Google. It took then only a few days to get alternative routes into place and after five or six week the whole Google-blockade was called off.
There was only one exception and that was the "cache" section on their resultpages, where you could get images that have been catched by the Google robots. That allowed me in the time before the new filters to get very easy blocked websites through this Google serves.
Thas has been kept close up to, well maybe today. I clicked by accident on the cache-button and it worked again.
Next should be blogspot of course.

Hmm, the filters are not totally helpless. I was looking up some information about a banned book in China and the cache did not show up. But alternative websites did give enough information, so I wonder what this filter is doing.
The life of women

Traditions in China are loosing out, is the big message of an article in the People’s Daily that is interesting, although by mixing up all kind of marginally related sociological research, it gives not really a very clear message.
A majority of the professional high-income women in Beijing remain single it says. They do give a breakdown of the reasons way (Do not need the men anymore because they are economically independent), but important other questions are not answered.
Are they happy? I note that also in Shanghai many woman remain unmarried (with is different from single – I just realize) but still feel they are missing something substantial.

Another quoted research says that 80 percent of the women in Chengdu attach great importance to their sexual life. Again, annoying little details are lacking: what does this all mean. The subject is discussed, that is true, but in a way that seem rather remote from real life. Wonder whether the sociologists have asked more questions.

Friday, September 19, 2003

Forbes in Shanghai

Interesting dilemma's show up when a famous magazine hosts a prestigious conference. What are other media going to do? Traditionally they would ignore the competition. In the foreign media I saw an interview with Mr. Forbes himself done by Reuters. Otherwise coverage has been rather meager.
But the Chinese media went all out in their adoration for this symbol of American capitalism. The China Daily especially admired the entrance fees, a whoppy USD 5,000 per person and many high level sponsors. It cheers about Forbes entering the Chinese market, easily forgetting that only a few months ago the Ministry of Propaganda forbade the same magazine access to the market.
In the Shanghai Daily a very easy connection was made with the expected upsurge in foreign investments, as if Shanghai has to complain about that.

Thursday, September 18, 2003

Only booming industries allowed

One of China's less flourishing industries is that of aviation. Not surprisingly, on a global scale only two large companies can keep up the struggle and the notion of a domestic aviation industry is unthinkable.
But even the unthinkable shows up in the Chinese media today, for example when they report that the aviation industry really takes off. Since they are mainly making very small airplanes, the sale of 30 of them might be a nice start, but should not yet be the opening of your paper.

Wednesday, September 17, 2003

The top-jobs

In this fast-changing industry none of the participants has a clue what to do. The government, the media, the journalists and their audiences find it very hard to decide what is for example news.
Biggest State firms to offer top jobs, the China Daily reports on efforts of six large state-owned enterprises to recruit top managers. Big deal, you would say in a world where headhunters run the show and recruiting of top managers is a daily business for all large companies.
In China it is news, but still looks funny as a headline.

Monday, September 15, 2003

Blogspot really blocked?

Yesterday I got a friendly mail from Edward Hugh who is running his own blog on China. We have interlinked our blogs and he wanted to get some more information.
I tried to revisit his website and suddenly discovered that the usual way of circumventing the internet blockade of the Chinese censor on the "blogspot" domain names by using a proxy does not work anymore.
Technically they can do that, since they have bought rather expensive western technology to block incoming information, but in most cases they simply do not bother. That would be really nasty when I would have to swap to a non-Google-owned domain name.
The Currency issue

Chinese media keep on reporting on the US pressure on China to revaluate its currency to 'save' American jobs in manufacturing. While international support is fading away, the issue might come up dat the G7 meeting coming weekend. Chinese media follow the issue closely.
The China Daily today quotes Robert Mundell, 1999 winner of the Nobel prize for economics, who encourages China to stick to its policies. The Columbia professor spoke this weekend in Beijing.
The Shanghai Daily reports about the European defection from the US camp.

Friday, September 12, 2003

The bag-hype

I have just moved from my middle class neigborhood to the working classes in the suburbs of Pudong, as a preperation for much tavel: it is much cheaper here and I do not need a comfortable apartment when I'm gone for much of the time.
Could not follow the media very well because of my busy schedule, but was confronted today with an interesting side effect of my work as a journalist. Since we foreign journalists do not get paid for attending press conferences and other meetings, like the Chinese journalists, we often end up with a bunch of presents.
Unfortunately, these presents come in waves, so some years I got stuffed with pens - mostly the better ones - and other years with watches. Pens get used and the batteries of watches give up, so you throw them away. What I discovered during my move were the remains of a bag-hype. About twenty of the were still lying around, while I thougth I had given most of them to bagless friends. But no. I have one laptop and twenty bags to carry him. Today I tried to give bags away: Shanghai must be full of bags, since none of my friends wanted them.

Tuesday, September 09, 2003

Sport marketing

PepsiCo Inc, Philips, Motorola, Fuji and Virgin Atlantic are the names of a few companies in a sad story on sport marketing in China by Business Week. Very few foreign companies seem to have found a good deal in sponsoring clubs and getting the airtime they hoped for. CCTV's monopoly on nationwide broadcasts is only one of many problems, next to the supporters. "
When their teams lose, they stay home, so they don't make a lasting connection with the players -- and their sponsors. For example, Shanghai's Shenhua SVA SMEG soccer club this year sold just 6,000 season tickets, a fifth of the seats in its stadium, says team General Manager Lou Shifang. That's largely because the team placed 12th in a 15-team division in 2002.

Wife swapping - on China and sex

While some subjects are still off limits, Chinese media are getting more daring in those that are on their agenda, like sex. The China Daily had the most amazing story of this week when it reported today about the habit of wife swapping - with the consent of all adults.
It reports a case, involving both investigative journalism and the police, with even a certain understanding. "The police were also astonished. They did not find anyone who was deceived into the swing club. As a matter of fact, all members were college educated and held enviable jobs," the reporter writes.
The story then goes on with the legal dilemma: when everybody agrees, what is the offense? The reporter suggest that Chinese belong to the most loyal partners in a marriage with 70 percent only having one partner in the whole life, but that seems a rather conspicious statistic. Most saw swapping partners mainly as a way to "spice up" their family life, it goes on.
The story does not reveal if the investigative reporter came alone. The police probably came with a whole bunch after which the reporter decided to write a story about the event he was involved in.
SARS - the comeback

SARS has obviously reoccurred in Singapore, but the Chinese media seem to have decided they are not going to miss anything. Today the China Daily reported about the Singapore case, as did the Shanghai Daily.
Today my elevator smelled like disinfectants are used in public places again: the whole building smells again like a hospital.

Sunday, September 07, 2003

Zhou Zhengyi hits headlines

Yet another day where a sensitive issue hits the Chinese papers: the arrest of Shanghai real-estate tycoon Zhou Zhengyi. Friday he has been formally arrested, while he was already in detention.
The 11th richest man in China, according to Forbes last year, had been entangled in suspect loans from the Bank of China in Hong Kong. He was perceived to be close to the Shanghai ruling class and the actions against him fitted into a classic conspiracy-story where current president Hu Jintao used this case to undermine Jiang Zemin's power base.
Anyway, for months the Chinese media were told not to report about the case anymore, and only last Friday Shanghai TV was te first to report about his formal arrest.
The charges, also reported by the Shanghai Daily, are relatively light, suggesting that the case might lose its importance soon.

Saturday, September 06, 2003

Article 23

The day after Hong Kong Chief executive Tung Chee-hwa withdraws the so-called article 23 on national security - a law that brought on July half a million people on the streets in Hong Kong - it is interesting to see what the Chinese media do. Do they ignore the issue?
The Hong Kong media of course all open with the issue that has been so important. The Shanghai Daily does not mention the issue, but perhaps their website has not yet been updated. The People's Daily does, and quotes Tung saying "He said that concerning the detailed legislative provisions, there is still doubt and there are still questions remaining in the community." A rather subtle way of describing the protests.

The China Daily bring it more prominent and writes amongst others: "Legislative support for the bill unraveled following a public protest on July 1, and the bill was put on hold". The item includes a picture of Tung at yesterday's press conference. Interesting to see how far the Chinese language media go.

Shanghai Daily later has a very small piece from official newswire Xinhua.

Friday, September 05, 2003

Chinese internet censor stops US news

The news about US president George Bush going around in his mid-west to rally financial support for his upcoming election campaign did get the attention of the Chinese internet censors. During these rallies Bush also spoke out against China and the way it is managing its currency, to gain support from the hard-hit region.
That means that AP-reports in local papers, like The Beacon Journal from Ohio, are censored in China, a very special honor! The same goes for dispatches in the Porterville Recorder and the Santa Maria Times. Somebody at the censorship department must be very bored.

Tuesday, September 02, 2003


Ah, I have to quote Xinhua here, the official Chinese government newswire. They close an item on the democracy in small villages with this beautiful phrase: "Government sources said that by June of 2003, 95 percent of China's 680,000 villages had reached the standards of transparent and democratic village administration. Among them, more than 60 percent had adopted relatively standard mechanisms."

Now, isn't that convincing?

Well, could I add this morning a positive note on the quality of the China Daily, today's story at Chinabiz does the opposite. Shell had complained in the Financial Times that is 18 billion USD pipeline project in China was in jeopardy because of the bureaucracy and disagreements. BP had already left the project in 2001 for the same reason.
Let me tell you that it takes quite a lot before a company like Shell turns to the media to complain about the Chinese government. You only do that when you are really desperate.
And this morning, writes Chinabiz, the official propaganda paper China Daily writes that everything is going smooth. How funny!
China Daily reveals 'secrets'

In China there is a solid tradition of not telling the whole truth when that could be an embarrassment for the government or officials involved. But more and more Chinese media tell the truth now and then, although it makes life sometimes harder when you have to differentiate between official lies and informal truths.
Today the China Daily reports candidly about the upcoming changes in the media. And changes that have taken place already without explicit government approval. "The strongest contenders, such as Beijing Youth Daily and Southern Metropolis News, are run like businesses, and it is an open secret that some have private capital behind them," the propagandapaper reveals when it writes about the competition between the media.
The cities seem to be ready for the new situation, is the message. The real victims are going to be papers and magazines at the country-side. But closed down papers is still hard in China, says Liu Binjie, director of the General Administration of Press and Publication: "We need an exit strategy so that those with no readership, no social or financial returns can be terminated. Some papers even have no official operating license. How can you close down a medium that officially not even exists, Liu asks himself.
Almost none of the parties seem to have a clue what to do: the government, the media organizations, the journalists and the readership.

Monday, September 01, 2003

New blog

The earlier mishap was caused by me, mixing up this blog with a new one I created on the issue of free trade and China that is becoming an issue in the political discussion in the US nowadays.
Quite a different focus than this one, so I won't bother with that.

Sorry, pressed a wrong button and messed up my lay-out. Will be back soon, I hope
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Living In China