Microsoft’s new anti-piracy ad campaign in China

You can have a look at the ads here. Will they make the slightest bit of difference? I hate to be cynical, but if ever there was a long, hard slog, it’s the campaign to sway China to respect intellectual property. After walking through a Zhongguancun mall the other day, I’d say the campaign has a long way to go.


Web patrols to the rescue – just what we need

Big Brother with Chinese characteristics?

Police in China’s capital said Tuesday they will start patrolling the Web using animated beat officers that pop up on a user’s browser and walk, bike or drive across the screen warning them to stay away from illegal Internet content.

Starting Sept. 1, the cartoon alerts will appear every half hour on 13 of China’s top portals, including Sohu and Sina, and by the end of the year will appear on all Web sites registered with Beijing servers, the Beijing Public Security Ministry said in a statement.

…The animated police appeared designed to startle Web surfers and remind them that authorities closely monitor Web activity.

If you are so appalled by what you see on the site that you need police help, not to worry – just click the image of the police officer and you’ll be directed to a police site where you can let them know what the threat is. The police will then swoop in and keep all of us safe.

I thought China was going to focus on cleaning up its image and presenting itself as a real country as the Olympics approaches. These types of unintentionally hilarious stories do little to further their cause.


Yahoo! sued over involvement in China human rights abuses

Richard did not write this post and may not agree with it.

Regardless of the outcome, I think it’s good that Yahoo is being taken directly to task over what it did.

Yahoo! sued over disclosure of Chinese citizens’ identities

The internet company Yahoo! has become embroiled in a legal battle with a human rights group over a decision to disclose the identity of Chinese citizens, leading to their arrests. Yahoo! is being sued by the World Organisation for Human Rights, based in Washington, on behalf of Wang Xiaoning and his wife, Yu Ling. He is serving a 10-year prison sentence for advocating democratic reform in articles circulated on the internet.

The group is also suing Yahoo! on behalf of Shi Tao, a journalist serving a 10-year sentence for sending an email summarising a Chinese government communiqu̩ on how reporters should handle the 15th anniversary of the 1989 crackdown on the pro-democracy movement. The suit alleges that these people Рand others yet to be identified Рwere tortured or subjected to inhumane treatment at the hands of the Chinese authorities because of information that Yahoo!, Yahoo! China or, a Chinese company in which Yahoo! has a minority stake, had passed on to the government.

Regardless of whether or not Yahoo! “had” to comply with Chinese law, it decided to operate in China and not contest the technically unconstitutional laws that were supposedly being quoted by the authorities. If it willingly operates in a country like China and does things that it knows will lead to people being abused, it can’t avoid the repercussions.

No one has to sell their soul to the Devil.


40,000 fingers

This story is already a couple of months old, but this blog post about this amazing and grimly inspiring article set me thinking. 40,000 fingers… The price of progress.

Real busy at work again, but trying to capture things I like on my blog before I lose track of them.


Online anti-corruption game crashes servers in China

Is this one of those “only in China moments”? I think it qualifies.

A Chinese online game aimed at curbing official corruption has been shut down just weeks after its launch after proving so popular that the number of users overloaded its server, state media reported on Tuesday. The government-sponsored “Incorruptible Warrior” taught anti-graft measures by requiring players to kill corrupt officials while avoiding attacks by their henchmen and bikini-clad mistresses.

…. Corruption has become rampant in China since market reforms were introduced in the 1980s, and the ruling Communist Party has warned the problem is so great it could threaten its hold on power if it is not curbed. The government has been trying various means to crack down on graft, from mass campaigns to handing down punishments as harsh as execution for top officials felled by corruption charges.

But the report said while “Incorruptible Warrior” was meant as a new way to target graft, it had been criticised by some users who suggested it was improper to encourage players to kill corrupt officials in violent ways.

Don’t worry, it isn’t shut down permanently – just long enough to beef up the servers. So you’ll still have a chance to kill a corrupt official, if only virtually.


Flour Power

John Cole, former supporter of Bush and the Iraq War, is shrill. Our obsession with terror has turned us into a nation of quivering fruitcakes. 19 men with box cutters caused America to lose its mind. Can we recover? Can we possibly get our sanity back after sinking so deep into collective psychosis?

Great post, even better comments. Since his conversion, Cole’s has become just about my favorite blog.


How we let Bin Laden get away, yet again

This is one of the best articles on the search for Bin Laden ever, and a great reminder of why, despite our love affair with blogs, real journalism mustn’t go away. Absolutely extraordinary; it reads like a thriller and makes clear just how catastrophic the invasion of Iraq was to our actual goal, the defeat of al Qaeda. The invasion of Iraq was our gift to Osama Bin Laden, a new lease on life for a monster we had cornered, yet allowed to get away as we tripped on our own red tape and CIA vs. Defense Department infighting. And it’s a gift that keeps on giving. We now face an emboldened, more determined al Qaeda, flush with new recruits inspired by America’s trainwreck in Iraq and dead-set on striking us again. Thank you, Mr. Bush. Look at what you’ve spent (lives and dollars) and what you’ve gotten back in return.

Update: A US soldier blogging in Iraq. More proof the surge is working and that victory is right around the corner. All we need is another six months….


Smoke, mirrors and the Beijing Olympics

Long-time China hand Ross Terrill writes today of China’s efforts not only to clean up Chinglish in Beijing, but also to create its own truth, Potemkin Village-style, to show you the China it wants you to see, which often has little to do with the China that actually is. This is, of course, nothing very new; it’s why CCTV-9 exists. Will the masses of tourists and foreign journalists be fooled?

Banished from Beijing for the Olympics will be not only fractured English, but disabled people, Falun Gong practitioners, dark-skinned villagers newly arrived in the city, AIDS activists and other ‘troublemakers’ who smudge the canvas of socialist harmony.

Fictions will abound for the month of August 2008. On all fronts the party-state will pull the rabbit of harmony from the hat of cacophony – ‘What do you mean by dissidents?’ Scientists have been told to produce a quota of ‘blue days’ with a clear sky, perpetuating a Chinese Communist tradition of defying natural as well as human barriers to its self-appointed destiny. Mao vowed to plant rice in the dry north of China as well as the lush south, to prove the power of socialism. ‘We shall make the sun and moon change places,’ he cried. None of this occurred.

Likewise, in 2001, arguing before the world to get the Olympic Games, the vice president of Beijing’s bid committee said, ‘By allowing Beijing to host the Games, you will help the development of human rights.’ Yet the opposite danger looms: Games preparation has spurred repression.

Every day, government censors send news organizations a list of forbidden topics and guidelines for covering acceptable ones. The price for ignoring the list: dismissal of an editor or closure of the publication. Last spring, government supervisors even instructed the TV producers of ‘Happy Boys Voice,’ a Chinese version of ‘American Idol,’ to eliminate “weirdness, vulgarity and low taste.’ No wonder Dai Qing, a journalist who was imprisoned after Tiananmen in 1989, says the only thing she believes in China’s press is the weather report.

Truth and power are both headquartered in the Communist party-state. ‘Truth’ (socialism sparkles, people adore the party) is not only enforced by the party-state but created by it. Stamp out Chinglish; ban ‘unhealthy thinking’; just keep the picture pretty – or else.

Living in China is great right now, for me, anyway. But think about how much greater it would be if it didn’t fall for its own propaganda, if it didn’t feel it needed to scrub the city of its handicapped and dark-skinned citizens, if it didn’t feel it had to cover everything with window dressing. Terrill ends his op-ed with some wisdom that should be obvious to everyone, yet somehow seems permanently to elude the CCP.

The Chinese state, for better and for worse, knows exactly what it’s doing, in Africa and at home. Still, a brilliant Olympic Games will be no more of a clue to the future of Chinese Communist rule than the spectacular 1936 Berlin Games were a sign of Nazism’s longevity. Correct language, like a gold medal, is desirable in itself. But neither guarantees glory for a state that pursues them for political ends (ask the Soviet Union). Sport should just be sport. The democracies should insist on that and leave political manipulation to the dictatorships.

It’s really a shame that to the party, the Olympics is all about altering the world’s perception about China using whatever methods possible, no matter how ham-fisted or unintentionally droll, a strategy that’s bound to backfire. Sure, every country that hosts the Olympic Games wants to show the world its best, but “the best” that China’s intent on showing is manufactured, having little or nothing to do with China’s reality.

China is such a great country with so much vitality and ingenuity. Why try to blind everyone with cheap stunts and pyrotechnics designed to obfuscate rather than educate? I don’t want to see China turn itself into the laughing stock of the world. Can someone just tell them to cut the sugar-coating and act like a real country, one that acknowledges its strengths and its weaknesses, its greatness and its shortcomings. The world will be fooled by all the smoke and mirrors just as it is fooled by those insane public rallies for Kim Jong Il across the border, which is to say not very much.

Yeah, I know this is a rant of pure wishful thinking, and Hu is highly unlikely to take my advice. But it’s okay to dream, isn’t it?


God’s in his heaven, all’s right with the world

I went back to work today after three whole days in bed. There’s nothing quite like being sick to make you appreciate life and all the things you take for granted (like being able to walk across the room). It’s good to be back.

China is still here in all its strangeness. I love the place, and it drives me insane. Things I found infuriating four years ago are now amusing. Well, some things, anyway. There’s still a lot to be infuriated with, but you can’t be consumed with outrage all the time, at least not if you want to get any pleasure out of life.

I’m still not up to heavy-duty blogging, so let me wrap this up by drawing your attention to a handy new list of do’s and don’ts the government is offering to Chinese tourists traveling overseas. It’s priceless.

China’s advice to its citizens who travel abroad: No fighting, no shouting and, please, no extortion.

The new guidelines for Chinese tourists, posted on the Foreign Ministry’s Web site Tuesday, cover a wide range of dangerous or problem behavior to help head off trouble.

Travelers are told to avoid drawing attention to themselves, respect local customs, and keep a wary eye on strangers.

“Keep peaceful in public places, don’t talk loud and avoid sticking out,” the guidelines said.

“Don’t get involved in other people’s quarrels in public places,” it added, a nod to the Chinese habit of gathering in large crowds to observe or even take part in others’ arguments and fights.

The suggestions also urged Chinese to respect local laws and not to try to cut corners or make threats.

“When your legal rights are violated, avoid making things worse and resolve the problem through upright channels, not through extortion or other illegal methods,” the guidelines said.

So remember, the next time you travel outside of China try not to practice extortion. If you feel you absolutely must extort somebody, try at least to keep it to a minimum.

Thanks for sticking around despite the paucity of new material.



I’ve been trying to post every weekend, but the plan got interrupted when I got hit hard on Thursday with a fever, shakes, headache, nausea, etc. (Still, I went out with my colleagues that night to see Mama Mia for the fifth time; it was harder to enjoy than usual, but I still floated out of the theater.) Went to Beijing United today and the doctor said it would take me two weeks more to fully recover, and gave me the usual goodie bag of pills and sachets and vitamns. I guess God doesn’t want me to blog at this point in my life. And now, back to sleep.