Sunday, November 30, 2003

Missing China Telecom - the WTO column
(today at Chinabiz)


Amsterdam - One of the more annoying emails I got this week on China was a press release of "Human Rights in China' in New York that criticized a recent survey published this month on the internet in China by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences and partly funded by the American Markle Foundation, (where you can also get the excellent report).

The CASS - report documents an increased freedom, perceived by the users of the internet to criticize government decisions, as one of its conclusions. Interesting was also the opinion of both users and anon-users of the internet that they see the Chinese domestic media as more reliable than their foreign counterparts.

According to HR in China those questions cannot be asked in a country like China, even more, you cannot conduct any opinion poll in a country where the government is molding the opinion of its citizens. Two questions came to my mind right aaway.

Who should we ask then about what is going on? Should we ask "Human Rights in China"? President Hu Jintao? And another equally fundamental question: is the US administration not molding the opinions of their citizens in a similar way, with a similar level of success? It is still interesting to find out those opinions.

What strikes me is how fast internet has become part of daily life in China and how easy we can get addicted to being in touch with all the information in the world. I'm now sitting in the Amsterdam equivalent of a Starbucks and I cannot get online: such a nuisance. I have been traveling through Silicon Valley, looking for a way to hook onto the internet, like a traveler in the desert looking for water: it was sometimes damned hard.

I never thought I would ever say this, but I'm missing the services of China Telecom, who gives nationwide access to the internet by dialing only one number 16300, and you only pay telephone access cost.

What is really an interesting story to follow abroad is the upheaval caused by Muzimei, the Guangdong reporter who documented her sexual adventures with men on a highly successful weblog, causing a breakdown of the servers who could not handle the gigantic traffic. Muzimei was dismissed by her employer, but I guess her own little project did get out of hand in a more positive way.

While the stories do not seem to provide material for the Nobel Prize for Literature, it is for sure a sign that things are changing - for the better if you ask me. People allow themselves the freedom to do in their private lives what they want, without the fear of being put into a re-education camp. That would have been ten years standard procedure. Now even the official media use the incident as a good way to discuss the values of this society, maybe in a slightly moralizing way, but giving the persons involved to make their own choices.

Non-users of the internet say they do not want to go online, since they see no reason to do so. Muzimei at least has given some of them a damned good reason to get online and also use other, perhaps slightly more useful information on the internet.

Fons Tuinstra

(And China has released three internet entrepreurs from prison, media report)

Friday, November 28, 2003

The unsuccessful ban of Muzimei's tales

It came not as a surprise. The successful weblog of Guangdong author Li Li, pen name Muzimei, has appeared as a booknon their sexually explicit weblog and has been banned, writes the Shanghai Daily today.
In a standard procedure a still-unknown government agency has banned the book for equally unknown reasons - at least they have not informed the public. Just like previous popular but banned books, it does not make a big difference for the audience. Some online bookshops have stopped the sales, but the book is still widely available in the stores.
Illegal copies have also appeared and that is the major bad news for the author: she will miss much of the copyright and will have to rely on income from a translation.

Tuesday, November 25, 2003

HRChina attacks internet survey

In a rather aggressive press release Human Rights in China has attacked the newly released report in the internet in China for not address the crackdown on the internet. (Their website www.hrchina.org is unfortunately no longer available). HRCHina disagrees with conclusions like that internet users agree that the "Internet provides more opportunities to express political views and criticize government policies".
It argues that in a society like China you cannot ask people for their opinion, since it has been shaped by the government itself.
Who could we ask then for an opinion, I wonder? I found it an excellent report and - considering the situation in China - very frank academics, even more in their interviews than in the report.
Perhaps HRChina fears it might become obsolete when the internet and openness really get hold of China.

Monday, November 24, 2003

Mixed reports about Georgia

Here in Europe all newspaper open with the "Revolution of Roses" in Georgia where angry protesters have sent their president Shevardnadze peacefully home after he committed fraud during recent elections.
The China Daily gives a fair account, although less prominent as the European newspapers. In the Shanghai Daily (at least the online edition) nothing is mentioned.
Muzimei lost her job and got an upgrade

A very typical way of dealing with a feature like Muzimei, according to a dispatch from the Shanghai Daily, here copied by the China Daily. The writer of the famous sexblog lost her job, but got an upgrade of the server as her hosting service, as on average 6,000 new readers join her blog.

Saturday, November 22, 2003

"Media control loosens because of internet"

Research by Chinese scholars, funded by the Markle foundation shows that the internet has ended the control of the Chinese government over the media, writes AP.
"You cannot control Internet. That is my basic theory," said Guo, who recently completed a survey on Internet use in 12 smaller Chinese cities. "People can receive all sorts of information. The filters cannot scan a graphic."
Interesting detail from the research: nearly 90 percent of the interviewees (internet users and non-users alike) think some degree of management or control of the internet is necessary (page 6/7). That figure has gone _up_ compared to a similar survey two years ago.
What should be controlled? 1. Pornography; 2. Violence; 3. Spam; 4. Online advertissement. ONly a small part (12.9%) think political content should be controlled.

Thursday, November 20, 2003

Muzimei - more indepth

Not so much time to look at the media in China, but our Muzimei is getting better coverage, also that to Andrea from Living in China. With here some additional information.
The Guangdong reporter who blogged about her sexual experiences in pictures and a translation. Here a translation of one of her stories, "No doggy style".

Monday, November 17, 2003

Muzimei causes mayhem at blogchina.com

I missed the story here in the US, but fortunately Wang Jianshuo keeps me updated about the blog where a girl reported on her sexual experiences. I reported about the blog in my column at Chinabiz.
Not unexpected, the site of Muzimei broke down under the interest, including her host blogchina.com (although the latter one seems to be running again), while Muzimei seems to be back also with a slightly different url, as long as it lasts.

Friday, November 14, 2003

Sex sells

Also scientists have discovered this golden rule in journalism. The official newswire Xinhua reports about a top-10 of sex-related stories in Chinese media. Fortunately, they have not selected according to the upheaval their caused, the mouthpiece of the Chinese government writes, but they are ranked according to their "social and cultural values", without elaborating.

Wednesday, November 05, 2003

Foreign magazines

No time to read myself, but maybe the CD today is interesting.

Tuesday, November 04, 2003


So fewer updates these weeks. An extremely fast connection here in Tokyo, but not so much to write about China.
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