George Orwell would savor this

What an example of doublespeak.

The United States said that terrorist activity in the world increased sharply last year with the number of attacks and dead more than tripling but that it was winning the global “war on terror.”

Sorry if I’m stupid, but I would think the proof of our winning the “war on terror” would be a decline in terrorism, not a huge spike upward. But then, we are dealing with an administration that never makes mistakes, never does anything wrong and never fails. So what can they say? If Osama nuked half the urban centers in America, we’d still say we were winning. Does anyone actually believe it, though?


New Beijing tourist attraction?

Look, up in the sky!

A Chinese poet has built a spherical nest and mounted it on a 10 foot poll in a Beijing’s business district. He plans to live in the nest for a month.

Yefu took only a few necessary things with him, including a cup, a mobile phone, and bedding. Except for perhaps meeting some unsolvable problems, the poet will not leave the 4-square-meter space for the whole month. However, he will report his condition to the organizers by cell phone messages three times a day. The organizers will prepare dinners for him. Yefu hopes the nest life experience could help him write a new book.

I can think of more comfortable ways to find inspiration, but if this is what he needs to write poetry, more power to him.


Good grief

From Joseph Kahn over at the NYT/IHT:

China paper sees ‘evil plot’ in anti-Japan protests

A major Chinese state-run newspaper has said in a staff editorial that the wave of popular protests against Japan were part of an “evil plot” with “ulterior motives,” suggesting that at least some elements of the Chinese leadership now wish to portray the demonstrations as a conspiracy to undermine the Communist Party.

The editorial, carried by the Liberation Daily of Shanghai on Monday, used the most strident language to date in an escalating campaign against the anti-Japan protests. Officials did relatively little to stop – some say they even encouraged – the protests over three consecutive weeks from late March to mid-April…

Officials are clearly concerned that the protests, if left unchecked, could evolve into a direct challenge to the party, especially as a string of sensitive political anniversaries approach in early May.

The newspaper, whose editorials reflect the orders of Shanghai’s Communist Party leadership, did not name the people behind the alleged plot or reveal how it operated. But the ambiguous wording hinted at one of two possibilities: that the protests were hijacked by antigovernment groups or that elements in the ruling party used them to wage an internal political struggle….

It is not unusual for official propaganda organs to use hyperbolic language against people whom the authorities view as threatening, and allegations of secret conspiracies to sabotage the party’s leadership are also not uncommon.

But the wording in the editorial, which did not immediately appear in other major state-run dailies, was striking because it departed markedly from earlier official descriptions of the protests as spontaneous expressions of popular outrage against Japan. The softer language had been widely viewed as signaling tacit approval.

Are we all getting this? After helping, directly and indirectly, to organize and manage the demonstrations against the Japanese, the CCP is now claiming the whole things was actually the work of anti-party counterrevolutionaries. What next?

An analyst quoted in the article sees the flip-flopping as indicative of deep intra-party conflicts over how to handle the situation, and I’m sure he’s right. One thing that is now beyond dispute is that the demonstrations backfired, and the police, instead of bussing the demonstrators and handing them eggs to throw, will be arresting them next time.

Updat: Good article on the topic of backfiring can be found here (thanks, CDT). Conclusion:

It is possible that equipped with an understanding of how to organize en masse and seemingly under the radar of Beijing’s censors, younger Chinese may begin encouraging others to take to the streets against corruption and government land seizures, to complain about economic inequality or ideological repression. That is to say, with a slight change of focus, Beijing may see a change of course in its internal affairs towards more turbulent political waters.


Time to switch to Linux and boycott Microsoft?

This is very bad news for naive souls like myself who saw Microsoft as a liberal and open-minded organization — cut-throat and monopolistic, yes, but also socially enlightened. Or so I thought.

Actually, I’m not computer-savvy enough to switch to Linux, so maybe I’ll have to buy a Mac. Pricey, but I don’t know how I can buy a Windows machine and live with myself.

Update: Ouch.

The man dubbed “The Right Hand of God” has fingerprints all over Microsoft. Still.

Ralph Reed is more than a Friend of Bill — he is a paid GOP consultant, getting $20,000 a month from Microsoft to help shape the software behemoth’s image in the global marketplace.

Judging from Reed’s past — he was the former head of the evangelical Christian Coalition — that means serving up vitriolic viewpoints about gays and lesbians.

Judging from Microsoft’s actions — the company just yanked its support of a legislative bill in Olympia to protect gays — the Reed brand of insight is shining through.



There’s a plethora of good stories out about China today and I don’t have time to post about them all. Allow me to simply list two that caught my eye:

This upsetting article chronicles the short, sad history of the Peasant’s Survey (Zhongguo nongmin diaocha). It concludes:

An estimated 8 million copies of the Survey have now been sold in pirated form. Though Chen and Wu were allowed to collect an international prize in Berlin in October 2004, they were subsequently sued for libel by Zhang Xide, the former Linquan County Party boss—clearly with official backing. Their witnesses were subjected to the same well-calibrated mixture of bribery and repression that the Survey reveals to be a mainstay of the Party’s continued rule over hundreds of millions of angry and impoverished peasants: ‘Though their numbers are vast, they are not united, and are unable to combat the many pressures they face. But the rural cadres are, on the contrary, a very well-organized force’. When Chen and Wu petitioned for the trial to be moved to a neutral location rather than Zhang’s home district, where his son is a judge, their appeal was rejected. In March 2005 they were found guilty and given heavy fines. The suppression of the Survey of Chinese Peasants is surely as good as a confession, confirming who the real criminals are.

Yet another piece on the Beijing-Tokyo crisis, this one a bit more well-rounded and thought out than most:

Things are not quite what they seem, of course. What upsets Beijing most is not some textbooks that no non- Japanese-speaker will ever read. It is Tokyo’s recent declaration that preventing a Chinese invasion of Taiwan is a vital Japanese interest, and Japan’s increasing closeness to the Bush administration in defence matters (notably by signing up to the Ballistic Missile Defence project), and a dispute over the seabed resources around some islands (Senkaku in Japanese, Diaoyu in Chinese) that are claimed by both countries.

But it’s hard to get people worked up about such abstract questions, whereas the textbook issue touches a raw nerve in China, where the horrors of the Japanese occupation are within living memory. So the Chinese regime cynically plays this issue to whip up nationalist fervour – and the Japanese Government, with equal cynicism, pretends not to understand that it has committed an offense. For there are ultra-nationalists in Japan, too, and some of them are close to the ruling Liberal Democratic Party.

Both governments are at fault – but it is the ease with which the Beijing regime can rouse popular anger against Japan that is truly alarming. It will be hard for the regime to resist using this device again whenever it needs to deflect public anger away from its own failings. Nor can we be confident that a democratic China would be immune to this kind of manipulation by politicians using nationalist rhetoric.

Man, I hate nationalism.

Both of these articles are well worth reading.


Scary as hell

I heard about this from a colleague at work today, and didn’t believe it until I saw it for myself. Please, go there now and see the look of horror on that poor woman’s face. Look at the orderly and peaceful demonstrators. And she’s Chinese! (The clip is in Chinese but there’s some translation at the link.) I don’t call it “blind rage” for nothing. Yeah, this will help China’s international standing a lot.


To what extent will the anti-Japan protests backfire?

Note I didn’t ask if they would backfire, but when. Who will it backfire against? Against the CCP, I suspect. (No, not with revolution, but with increasingly brazen protests against the government.) Otherwise, they wouldn’t be acting so nervous.

China’s ruling Communist Party, backed by a sophisticated Internet filtering system, an army of cyber-cops, a vigilant public security apparatus and an extensive informant network, is quick to shut down the slightest hint of a political movement. Yet it has allowed Patriots’ Alliance and other anti-Japan groups to galvanize the nation, leading to an outpouring of rage that has brought tens of thousands of Chinese into the streets and has prompted attacks on Japanese companies, embassies and consulates.

Behind Beijing’s apparent acquiescence was a belief that it could harness public protests to serve its own aims, analysts say. But some China experts warn that party leaders are taking a risk: public resentment, once unleashed, can be difficult to contain.

“Once you mount the tiger, it’s hard to dismount,” said Nicholas Becquelin, Hong Kong-based research director with Human Rights in China. “They made use of the nationalism but found it a little more difficult to contain than they expected once its usefulness was over.”

A meeting between President Hu Jintao and Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi on Saturday failed to produce a breakthrough in the monthlong tensions as Hu called on Japan to back up its words of remorse with action. But China is clamping down hard on potential demonstrators, blanketing likely protest sites with a large police presence and using media controls and its extensive security machine to quell unrest.

Most ominous of all, in the CCP’s eyes, is that technology made it incredibly easy for organizers to plan, man and coordinate nationwide demonstrations. That will make them step up censorship efforts, and that, too can contribute to a backlash against them.

This article references the recently released Rand report [PDF] on internal protests in China, which soared to 58,000 separate incidents in 2003 mainly fueled by wealth imbalance, corruption and an ineffective legal system. There is some real wisdom here, and I’d like to include a generous snip:

The ultimate risk of China’s new more permissive containment and management strategy is that security officials – for any number of reasons – may find themselves losing control of a major demonstration, which then grows and spreads. Were that to happen, the Chinese government would find itself once again in the situation it faced at the height of the Cultural Revolution or in the Spring of 1989 – forced to choose between employing far greater violence to restore order, or engage in a renegotiation of power with society and the protestors. In the past, this difficult choice has always resulted in a serious split among the Party leadership over how best to restore control….

…China has taken a much riskier step beyond its emerging protest strategy of permissive containment and management” by attempting to tacitly “stage manage” angry young nationalist protestors. The leadership clearly hopes to ride this wave,buttress its popular nationalist credentials, and mobilize this popular anger as a diplomatic tool in its dealings with Japan over issues such as textbooks, Security Council membership, and security cooperation with the US to protect Taiwan. China can now claim – probably correctly – that its people would not stand for significant concessions on these issues.

But Beijing has chosen to run major risks that could end up creating serious challenges for its domestic stability and its foreign policy. By aligning itself tacitly with the protestors (notwithstanding its public calls for restraint), it risks having its policies
boxed-in or manipulated by protestor demands. Many in Japan and other countries now clearly feel that, by treating these demonstrations more permissively than it does most demonstrations, Beijing has to some extent assumed responsibility for damage caused by the protestors. Moreover, whereas the Belgrade bombing was in many ways a one-time event in which popular anger was likely to cool later, China’s disagreements with Japan have both a longer history and an indefinite future. Beijing has also legitimized protests led by a network of anti-Japanese groups that exist in the gray area of China’s emerging “civil society”, and which are not as tightly controlled by the state. As a result, China will have to decide whether or not to authorize similar demonstrations again and again in
the future – and press sources yesterday reported that these same groups plan to march again tomorrow. Perhaps worse, if Beijing finds it must use coercion to limit the protestors, it risks putting its security forces in the dangerous position of being seen as the “protectors” of the “unrepentant Japanese” – a very dangerous situation for a government that has staked its claims to legitimacy on nationalism and economic growth.

Is the government playing with dynamite, or does it have a way to control the masses and channel the aggression it helps foment in a manner that suits its purposes? Maybe we’ll know the next time there’s a major spark of social unrest.


Cell phones – China’s new Molotov cocktail?

No, I don’t mean that you light them on fire and throw them. But according to this article, mobile phones, with their text messaging capabilities, are becoming a formidable weapon in organizing protests and circumventing the notorious Great Firewall.

The thousands of people who poured onto the streets of China this month for the anti-Japanese protests that shook Asia were bound by nationalist anger but also by a more mundane fact: they are China’s cellphone and computer generation.

For several weeks as the protests grew larger and more unruly, China banned almost all coverage in the state media. It hardly mattered. An underground conversation was raging via e-mail, text message and instant online messaging that inflamed public opinion and served as an organizing tool for protesters.

The underground noise grew so loud that last Friday the Chinese government moved to silence it by banning the use of text messages or e-mail to organize protests. It was part of a broader curb on the anti-Japanese movement but it also seemed the Communist Party had self-interest in mind.

“They are afraid the Chinese people will think, O.K., today we protest Japan; tomorrow, Japan,” said an Asian diplomat who has watched the protests closely. “But the day after tomorrow, how about we protest against the government?”

As the reporter says, SMS chain letters urged people to boycott Japanese products and were a vital tool in communicating the protests’ logistics. Demonstrators even sent out links to Internet sites displaying photos of the protests that were banned in China. And that must leave the CCP orthodoxy very nervous.

I suggest they get used to it. They can’t black out an entire country. Well, they can, but like North Korea they would then cease to be a global player and unrest would only grow worse.

Than to Lisa for the link.



Please remember, one of the most popular spammer terms is Cialis, so I have no choice but to block it. Unfortunately, that means the filter will stop the word “socialist” and “socialism” as well. So be creative. I noticed several comments failed to get through last night because of this.

Update: “Specialist,” too — as I just found out for myself. I am not good with technology. If anyone can tell me how to fix this problem while filtering out messages for Cialis I’ll be grateful.


Censoring television in China

Ann Condi has written a bitingly funny (in a scary type of way) piece about her experience in 2001 as a guest on a CCTV talk program hosted by the ubiquitous Shen Bing. From her descriptions of the fortress-like protection of the CCTV studio, complete with armed guards, to the coyness of the emcee (Shen Bing) to the downright scary way the officials made it clear what the guests could and could not mention — well, it is a brilliant bird’s-eye-view into how China subtly but effectively controls its television news and commentary. Read it – you won’t be disappointed.