Three-year-old Chinese smoker

More great pics from ESWN, who says these photos have shocked many in China.


The new face of Google searches in China

google searching in china.jpg
“Some Search Results were not displayed according to local laws and policies.” Click to enlarge. From this site, via this site.

All sorts of good stuff — observations, comments and links — over at Rebecca’s and Will’s blogs. Danwei, too.

Please place comments on my previous Google thread to avoid comment sprawl.


Wait a minute; let me write that down!

The headline on an AP story today reads:

Bush: Bin Laden Should Be Taken Seriously

President Bush, defending the government’s secret surveillance program, said Wednesday that Americans should take Osama bin Laden seriously when he says he’s going to attack again. “When he says he’s going to hurt the American people again, or try to, he means it,” Bush told reporters after visiting the top-secret National Security Agency where the surveillance program is based

Who would have guessed Bin Laden should be taken seriously? And who was it, pray tell, who ignored a screaming memo weeks before the WTC holocaust headlined, “Bin Laden Determined to Attack inside the US?”


“Boycott Google!” (Not)

My arch-enemy, Maoist-turned-neocon Roger Simon, puts up a pompous post proclaiming that Google shareholders should dump the stock. And more.

Since this is obviously a manifestation of corporate greed at its most unbridled, not to say cynically exploitive of (even, in a way, racist towards) the people of the most populace country on Earth, it’s time to deal with Google in a manner that could actually affect the retrograde policy of the company. In other word, it’s time for…

… a Google stock divestment campaign.

Everyone who cares about the free-flow of information, about democracy in China, in fact about democracy anywhere, should start selling their Google stock. This should begin most especially with those vast university endowments because academic institutions, of all places, should be most concerned with the censorship of ideas and information. Union pension plans as well should seek to divest as their members should be particularly appalled by the company’s restrictive behavior. I could go on, but you certainly get the point. I welcome suggestions for how to mount this campaign in the comments below.

Even his own commenters say he’s being an ignorant asshole. What Google is doing benefits most Chinese people. A boycott is inane and misdirected. Do I think Google is “dancing with the devil?” Yes, just as I did when a company I once worked for approved a bribe to a local official, the only way we could get a permit for our client to put up a tent for a Beijing press event. Should we have refused, and given up our jobs? Tough issues, with lots of gray and no black or white.

It’s good to discuss these things, and I hope this incident generates more awareness of what it takes to do business in China. But calling for a boycott is rash and totally unproductive. I’d rather google be there than not be there. The company, however, can no longer take a moral high road and claim they won’t collaborate with governments’ shady policies when there’s money to be made. They’re doing what a corporation is supposed to do (see the film The Corporation to understand this concept better)and we can’t really blame them.


Bush the Incompetent

So nice to see once-terrified journalists finally calling our idiot president on his depressing shortcomings. This article is absolutely precious.

Incompetence is not one of the seven deadly sins, and it’s hardly the worst attribute that can be ascribed to George W. Bush. But it is this president’s defining attribute. Historians, looking back at the hash that his administration has made of his war in Iraq, his response to Hurricane Katrina and his Medicare drug plan, will have to grapple with how one president could so cosmically botch so many big things — particularly when most of them were the president’s own initiatives.

In numbing profusion, the newspapers are filled with litanies of screw-ups. Yesterday’s New York Times brought news of the first official assessment of our reconstruction efforts in Iraq, in which the government’s special inspector general depicted a policy beset, as Times reporter James Glanz put it, “by gross understaffing, a lack of technical expertise, bureaucratic infighting [and] secrecy.” At one point, rebuilding efforts were divided, bewilderingly and counterproductively, between the Army Corps of Engineers and, for projects involving water, the Navy. That’s when you’d think a president would make clear in no uncertain terms that bureaucratic turf battles would not be allowed to impede Iraq’s reconstruction. But then, the president had no guiding vision for how to rebuild Iraq — indeed, he went to war believing that such an undertaking really wouldn’t require much in the way of American treasure and American lives.

It gets worse. But as usual, no one’s going to listen, because we’re just too numb, too accustomed to failure on a vast scale to even take notice anymore. Read what he has to say about the Medicare “reform,” and you’ll see we’re totally screwed, 100-percent FUBAR. But Bush talks tough and walks with a (fake) swagger, while the Dems all sound like mealy-mouthed girly men who can’t agree on anything. And so Karl Rove will continue to rule the planet, while the tortured souls that are America’s liberals do the slow-roast in hell.


Google cooperates with one regime, fights another

[I originally wrote this as a comment to the Google-China post below, but decided to add to it and make it a post unto itself.]

I just saw an interesting story in Forbes on Google’s dealings with another shifty government, the US, which is subpoening its search records as part of its War on Pornography (which I suspect will be about as successful as the War on Terror and the War on Drugs). In this case, Google doesn’t want to “dance with the devil” because, the Forbes piece claims, coughing up its porn-search data will be bad for business:

A public disclosure of exactly how much pornography is on the Internet and how often people look for it–the two data points that will result from fulfilling the government’s subpoena–could serve to make the Internet look bad. And Google, as its leading search engine, could look the worst.

None of the search engines make a full disclosure of how much porn users are looking at. When America Online lists its most popular searches, for instance, porn references are scrubbed out. But Nielsen/NetRatings says that porn sites attracted 38 million unique viewers in December–or a quarter of all Internet surfers.

Google and its competitors all benefit from porn sites, which help generate search queries and page views. But Google is the only portal company that makes nearly all of its revenue from click-through advertising. Restricting porn and porn advertising–the likely aim of COPA’s sponsors–could hurt Google disproportionately.

And filtering in general would also hurt Google more than its competitors. The Google brand is built on the notion that the engine gives users the clearest picture of the Web, without playing favorites. Restricting content in any way could hurt Google’s carefully burnished image, its 60% market share for search queries and its share price.

And there we have it. If China were pressuring Google to take steps that would damage its bottom line, they’d be howling in protest, filing suit, speaking in tongues and rending their garments in the public square. If, however, the dancing means more money, well then they’re just fine with it. And that’s the world in a nutshell.

Update: Via a reader, I see there’s a fine article in the Guardian about this:

Google’s announcement this morning that it has launched a Chinese
version ( of its hugely successful search engine may seem like no more than a footnote in the fast-moving history of the internet. Google has ruminated long and hard over a decision it knows will be controversial. The company – motto “Don’t be evil” – aims for high ethical standards but has had to decide between its ambitions to be a big player in the second-biggest internet market and the inescapable need to accept Chinese censorship as a result….

Whether Google might have done better in the long run commercially by
keeping to the high moral ground at a time of rapid change in China will now not be known. It has an approach that is more ethical than most, but the multitude of enthusiasts will find it hard to reconcile its mission to provide all information to everyone when there are exceptions for words such as “democracy”. It is easy to see why Google is doing this. This does not alter the fact that, sadly and in a significant way, it is not the same company today that it was yesterday.

Check it out.


Maureen Dowd: Dems in Bleak House

Delusion and Illusion Worthy of Dickens
Published: January 25, 2006

The Democrats will never win the White House as long as they’re stuck in Bleak House. They’re slipping and sliding in the same crust-upon-crust of mud and caboose-creeping fog and soft black drizzle and flakes of soot that blacken the chamber of law in the opening of the terrific Dickens novel (now an irresistible PBS series).

The lumbering pace of Jarndyce v. Jarndyce will pale compared with the time it will take the cowed and colicky Democrats to yank back power from Republicans skilled at abusing it.

The party simply seems incapable of getting the muscular message and riveting messenger needed to dispel the mud, fog, drizzle and soot emanating from Karl Rove’s rag-and-bone shop on Pennsylvania Avenue.



Google to censor results in China

Is it a case of Google selling its soul, selfishly seeking to tap into the seductively huge China market, or is it a responsible business decision that brings specific and meaningful benefits to the Chinese people? Or perhaps a little of both? I admit, I’m conflicted, just as I am about other corporate decisions to cave to local rules specifically designed to repress. It really does benefit Chinese Internet users, and most will be thrilled to be able to use Google despite the censorship; most couldn’t care less about the restrictions. But is it about how helpful it is to the Chinese, or about how American companies are supposed to reflect American values? Diamond mining in South Africa during the days of apartheid provided badly needed jobs to poor black workers. But should American companies cooperate with governments that legislate racism? I really don’t have the answers, just the questions. Google is in effect making itself a mouthpiece of the Party propaganda machine, but it has no choice if it wants to operate in China. What my question boils down to is whether this is about China or about America. Complete article is below.

Online search engine leader Google Inc. has agreed to censor its results in China, adhering to the country’s free-speech restrictions in return for better access in the Internet’s fastest growing market.

The Mountain View, Calif.-based company planned to roll out a new version of its search engine bearing China’s Web suffix “.cn,” on Wednesday. A Chinese-language version of Google’s search engine has previously been available through the company’s dot-com address in the United States.

By creating a unique address for China, Google hopes to make its search engine more widely available and easier to use in the world’s most populous country.



Beijing Bell Tower Thread

beijing bell tower.jpg

That last thread was a bit much. Let’s all be nice, okay?

Photo source: Snow Kisses Sky.


Uncle Dashan


It’s Dashan and more Dashan today over at the Guardian. (Did you know typing his name into Yahoo China’s search engine turns up nearly a million links?) Dashan is to China what Jerry Lewis is to the French. Such phenomena say more about the audience than about the entertainer.

“Uncle Dashan! Uncle Dashan!”

In a smart bookshop in Chongqing city, deep in the humid heart of Sichuan, boys in new sneakers and girls with ribbons in their hair clamour for attention from the most famous foreigner on Chinese TV. Toronto-born Mark Rowswell – or, as he is known to a fifth of the world’s population, “Dashan” – does not disappoint, rewarding this group of his youngest fans with a beaming grin here, a self-deprecating quip there.

In fact this goofy, 40-year-old six-footer with pitch-perfect Chinese might just be the most famous Canadian in the world. For Rowswell is crown prince of a growing band of foreigners who have found fame on Chinese TV, often by accident – a bizarre experience by any standard, and one which forms the heart of a memoir to be published by Granta later this week.

Sometimes the opportunities come quite out of the blue. In 1988, the man who would become “Dashan” (literal translation – “big mountain”) was living in a foreign student dorm at Beijing University when he was first invited before the cameras to cohost a major student talent show. Legend has it that it was only when strangers greeted him in the street the next day that he realised it had gone out live – in fact 550 million people had been watching nationwide, and Rowswell had just become the first foreign host of a major event in Chinese television history.

These days Rowswell has become an institution – or at least his onscreen persona has. “Dashan is a cultural phenomenon,” says Conceison. “I knew about Dashan in the late 1980s when I first went to China as an undergraduate; diplomats in China from every nation know of him; Chinese children know of him; elderly citizens know of him; everyone knows of him.” Indeed, simply entering the name “Dashan” into Yahoo’s China search engine generates just short of a million hits – no less than four times the Chinese-language total of Brad Pitt.

There’s more, much more — if anyone really cares. Via CDT.