Leaking State Secrets

It’s back, sort of. Don’t miss this post about what happens when an anonymous blogger gets outed. Or his Farewell post, in which he laments the failure of American corporations to live up to their own ethical standards:

What I find most disappointing is the enthusiastic cooperation being shown by western companies like Yahoo and Google in helping the CPC to suppress information. Go to Beijing and watch what happens if you type in something as incuous as “Zhongnanhai” into Google. You get locked out for about half an hour.

Companies like Google say that this is the price of doing business in China. I would say that price is too high. Leave it to the Baidus, Sohus and the Sinas. Haven’t Google got something in their mission statement about “doing good stuff” or some other vaguely benevolent slacker-like intention? Completely meaningless.

Anyway, I return to Australia and find myself glad to live in a society that [so far] treasures freedom of speech.

Having worked briefly at China Daily I find myself seeing it as a bit like the Truman Show. I was one of those workers behind the scenes, trying to keep the 1.3 billion Chinese Trumans living in a fantasy world of sunlight and smiles.

That post is a must-read. Google’s conference room motto he is referring to is “Don’t be evil.” Can you do business in China without involving yourself in evil? Maybe you can’t avoid it anywhere, maybe there’s a degree of evil built into doing business, period. Just wondering.

Anyway, I’m going to miss this site, and am hoping its owner continues to post now and again.

______________

Richard Burger is the author of Behind the Red Door: Sex in China, an exploration of China's sexual revolution and its clash with traditional Chinese values.

The Discussion: 8 Comments

Oh come on, he didn’t get “outed” and nothing happened to him.

After a while, though, many of the foreign editors at his workplace were aware of the site. This is hardly surprising, as he didn’t exactly hide his identity.

September 28, 2005 @ 5:22 am | Comment

As much as it is a horrific thing that google/yahoo is cooperating with the propaganda apparatus to infringe on people’s US-style freedoms, it may still be easier for them to spit at the train while on it. That way, down the road, these companies could exert a greater leverage than if they were not in China at all – that is, to be part of the engagement process, not part of the anti-china shouting contest..

September 28, 2005 @ 8:27 am | Comment

JD is right, nothing would happen to a guy like this. There is a kind of racism in the way Chinese treat journalists. Ethnic Chinese journalists like Shi Tao can get heavy sentences for leaking relatively unimportant information. Having a foreign passport, or residency, doesn’t seem to help if you are Chinese – as the cases of Zhao Yan (New York Times) and Ching Cheong (Straits Times). show. But western journalists never get anything worse than overnight detention and perhaps expulsion. And China Daily has got a poor enough reputation as it is – they wouldn’t want to make it worse by having one of their foreign staff locked up.

September 28, 2005 @ 9:09 am | Comment

I think what I don’t like is that google is complying. For one thing, it already has a stranglehold on the rest of the world’s web-searching. It is extremely successful and has no need to sell its soul.

The reason I say “sell its soul” is that google was launched with the “we’re not like the evil corporate types” mission-statement. And now they’ve committed the cardinal sin of web-usage – helping a government censor free-thinking.

So they are just evil coporate types after all…..

Soeren, the CCP doesn’t give a damn what google and the others say now. Why do you think they will care any more when the companies are reliant on the Chinese market and wouldn’t dare to criticise Beijing for fear of losing vital profit?

You can’t make deals with the CCP over free information and civil rights. You need something they want or would like to be changed – e.g. the EU-China arms embargo. While we maintain that, we can dangle it in front of Hu’s nose like a carrot and get him to come around to our position. But as soon as we give him the carrot, he’ll walk away.

September 29, 2005 @ 6:53 am | Comment

Things will change at their own pace. As the daily lifes of ordinary Chinese are improving, blocking potential subversive information using a search engine, is a very low priority and I can’t get excited about it. This is probably done to buy time, and China needs time.

September 29, 2005 @ 8:19 pm | Comment

What, you’re saying the BBC is subversive? Funny then that only autocratic regimes block it.

Or do you consider information on the manipulation of the Chines media, breach of human rights, etc in China to be subversive? What is your definition of subversive – criticising the CCP?

September 30, 2005 @ 10:41 am | Comment

Um, one wonders why Mr. State Secrets even went to Beijing or China Daily in the first place. It sounds like he went there with some sort of self-inflated idea that he was going to razzle and dazzle CD management with his industry experience and idealistic vision of how things should be (because that’s how things are in Oz!), only to feel hurt and bitter when things didn’t go off as he’d pictured.
Many worked at CD before he ever did, and I’m sure the powers that be at the paper have heard it all before. It’s China, not Australia — what did he expect?
It sounds like he went there carrying a bundle of preconceived notions about the country, the city, the paper, journalism in general, and himself. He’s bitter because things didn’t add up the way he imagined. Did he expect the locals to bow down before him just because he’s got a bit of experience and grew up in the west? They were putting out this paper long before he showed up. Did he not consider what he was getting into, or was he blindly driven by delusional fantasies? Perhaps with a more open mind he might have enjoyed his time there more.
But it appears his professed love for the country is conditional. He only likes China as long as it fits into some neat mental package he has constructed in his head.
As for the pollution, how many cities (particularly across the developing world) has he been to? Beijing is not great, but is MUCH better than many cities on the Asian mainland.
His romanticized account of his “adventure” in Beijing rings hollow, the bitter rantings of a guy who perhaps overestimated his importance.
It’s not a matter of right or wrong, bad or good — it’s about working and cooperating with people of another culture and language… on a media project, of all things! Sounds like a wonderful opportunity to do something different. That requires one to unhook their ego a bit, but there is still much to learn from the experience. Unfortunately, it seems that went over his head.
He also didn’t really seem to catch on that most people at CD, even the experienced journos (and yes, there are several English journos at CD who are probably more qualified than Zhuan Jia) take the job seriously, but don’t take the paper itself seriously. It’s about being self aware and doing whatever job in front of you the best you can.
Zhuan Jia thought he was doing something novel and new (ooh, another blog! and on China!) that might get him a byline in an Aussie daily, something he likely desperately wants.
He just comes off lame, bitter and weird to anyone who met him. Don’t get sucked in by the empty drama in the blog. HHe’s paranoid, and his experience here was considerably more mundane.

October 19, 2005 @ 4:00 am | Comment

HI.. Nice blog.. we need you at spy4cash.com

Cheers
Bob

April 8, 2006 @ 7:03 pm | Comment

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