Tag Archives: government

Chinese Black Swan

Chinese Party Officials try to recreate a seen from Darren Aronofsky’s Oscar Winning Black Swan

The Officials photographed are decked up in environmentally friendly clothing to promote a ‘low carbon lifestyle’. The event was held at a Beijing CPPCC annual gala on the evening of January 18. I am not really sure what else to say.

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Filed under Art, comedy, environment, Fashion, Film, Propaganda

Now your dancing child with his Chineeese suuuuit

Latest reports suggest Beijing and Shanghai will be confused by Bob Dylan in April 2011.

"Didn't Bob Dylan die?" - no

The ministry said in a brief statement that Dylan – the writer of some of rock’s most iconic and politically charged songs – must perform “strictly according to an approved program”.

I assume this means no 80s  material etc etc.

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The protest that didn’t happen

Journalists love a good protest. Even when they don’t happen. Recently they have been at the front line of the middle east protests, they were in the thick of the student protests and they seem to play a bizarre role in the way movements develop. Protestors get excited by the presence of cameras (as do most of the general public) and often become wilder and more provocative in the knowledge that they have a wider audience. In the age of rolling 24 hour news we can also expect news crews to hover about near the more extreme ends of a protest trying to capture something juicy for their viewers. Indeed I was present at last years student protest in London and at the ‘fire extinguisher’ incident at Millbank. This utterly stupid incident, the poking of Camilla and other acts of vandalism were repeatedly shown on the news and coverage was dominated by these isolated events rather than the fact that tens of thousands of protestors were pleading with their government to think twice about their rash policy decisions on education for future generations.

I am not naively suggesting that news broadcasts should avoid these events (that would be dull), merely they should try to present them in a balanced way. Having said this, I believe that the existence of live news streams has created compulsive viewing. I now watch news to see what might happen as opposed to seeing what has happened. It is a bit like staying up til 3 in the morning watching Big Brother to see if Chantelle and Wizzo fondle each other in the outhouse jacuzzi (I made those names up as I haven’t watched it for years).  But the idea of news before it has happened isn’t actually news and shouldn’t really be broadcast on a news channel.

I have watched live coverage over the last few weeks of protests in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya and I have clearly tuned in at all the wrong moments. Far from the highlights package of the days events that you get in the 10 O clock news – I seemed to tune at the more mundane moments  – a few people were standing near a camel, a man smoking a cigarette, a white man in flannel trousers. Maybe this is bad timing on my behalf, or maybe I should just wait (like we used to) for things to actually happen and for journalists to provide an insightful report after the incident has occurred.

I do not wish to downplay the role of the journalist or broadcast media in protest. They often play a vital role. In the protests in Tiananmen Square in 1989 the foreign media acted as a catalyst for the escalating protests and gave protestors an international platform on which to voice their concerns. The foreign press had all arrived in Beijing to cover the Soviet presidents Mikhail Gorbachev’s state visit. The presence of the foreign media encouraged the protestors to play up to the cameras and capture the attention of their world audience. The media savvy students created huge embarrassment for the government by writing banners in English and creating symbols that an international audience would instantly recognise such as the Goddess of Democracy. The Tiananmen Square protest was huge and involved students, writers, some Communist Party moderates such as Zhao Ziyang and most importantly workers. It has been argued that the workers joining the movement was a crucial factor in bringing about the government’s violent reaction.

This is why I believe that the protest movement in the middle east will not spread to China. Both the people protesting and the situations are different. As well as demanding political reform, many of the protests in the Arab world have centred on job creation and anger at long term unemployment. The Chinese government does have cause for concern over rising inflation, however, it does not have the same stagnant unemployment seen in Egypt, Tunisia and Libya. The media nonetheless, seems convinced that protest will spread to China. With their cameras poised, they waited this weekend on Wangfujing street, one of Beijing’s major shopping thoroughfares to report on the rumoured “Jasmine Revolution.” ‘Protests’ also apparently occured in other cities in China. the Guardian reported that:

‘Shanghai police used whistles to disperse a crowd of around 200, although it was unclear if the people were anything more than onlookers. It said officers detained at least four Chinese citizens in the city and two others in Beijing. It was not clear, however, if those detained had tried to protest’

photo of entirely different protest unrelated to this article (standard practice -see below)

This is hardly ground shaking stuff. The protests that didn’t happen(?) were reported/initiated by US based blog Boxun who claim that their site has been under cyber attack in the last week. Their website contains a series of youtube clips of people standing around and staring at police and military cordoned off areas. It is not really clear if any protest actually took place. The protests were meant to be a response to the state’s increased suppression of human rights activists and bloggers who have been suppressed. The telegraph are also reporting on the “Jasmine revolution” in Beijing,  although their leading photo is bizarrely one from Taiwan. They state that crowds of people were dispersed by street cleaning vehicles and that reporters from the BBC were ‘bundled into a van by police’. I guess we can assume that we wont be getting any rolling news pieces then? The telegraph’s photo is not the only example of deceptive photos. Anti CNN suggest that a number of news organisations have been ‘borrowing’ photos from other protests and claiming that they are part of the ‘Jasmine Revolution.’

The heightened police and military presence could indicate a growing fear amongst government officials, or it could not. Journalists in China, both domestic and foreign have always had limited access and the government are particularly sensitive if a journalist even catches a whiff of unrest. Excessive human rights abuses by the Chinese government are reported in foreign media but often this leads to Chinese accusations that the foreign press only focus on the negatives in China: a sort of nationalist self-defence mechanism. Heavy military and police presence on the streets of the capital do not indicate that there is growing unrest. It may just be a flex of muscle to show that a ‘blog uprising’ does not scare it.

Either way it is certain that ‘protests’ are a hot ‘trending topic’ at the moment so even protests that don’t happen are going to get serious news coverage.

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Filed under Blogs, Jasmine Revolution, News, Propaganda, protest, Uncategorized, Wangfujing

Learning from Han Han

Han Han (韓寒) is the most popular blogger in the world, included in New Statesman’s “The World’s 50 Most Influential Figures 2010” and a rally driver – but is his blog actually that good?  And why does he get  millions of hits per day while Brush Duck has only had 198 ever?

To find out I have translated his latest post from his blog Too Cold So Warm, a thriller with a social conscience:

Who are you, why are you asking this?

I remember last summer, when I went to a competition in Chengdu, I passed the City Government buildings.  Of course I did not know for sure that they were City Government buildings, but Chinese administrative buildings have a very distinct quality that you can recognise them.  Like when a girl stands on the side of the street you always know she is a prostitute.  At this time I said to my friend, who have these buildings been auctioned to?  My friend said one word; fart.

At the time of the 2008 earthquake of Wenchuan, the Chengdu Government proclaimed that the newly established Government buildings would be auctioned, with all the proceeds being put towards the recovery process in the disaster area, and this news had evoked a great level of interest and good feeling in the people.  I am a very naïve person, I thought this type of situation and this type of talk was genuine.  At that time I thought there must be a hundred large corporations that would purchase the buildings, to base their headquarters there, not only for the convenient traffic links, but also because if there were another earthquake they would certainly not collapse.  My friend said that the Government had already secretly snuck in.

Han Han wishing he wrote for a blog with film reviews based on trailers

Consequently I wanted to ask in the second issue of 独唱团 (Han Han’s magazine, Party, which seems to have folded after one issue) what the true reason was for the failure to auction the Government buildings, hoping to find a clear answer.  But in order to save the environment I will post it here.  Thanks go to student Cai Lei (蔡蕾) for his help.

I truly feel that if they wished to occupy the building they just should have. But to claim to donate more than 20亿* of Government building, but then only to contribute one piece of seemingly positive news is totally unfair.

At this point Han Han posts his article intended for独唱团


At the time of the 2008 Wenchuan earthquake, the Chengdu government said that it would put to auction its brand new buildings, with the proceeds going towards the disaster relief.  I wanted to know what had happened to the buildings – how much money had been raised?

The Chengdu journalist Zheng Mou (郑某) answered not one wisp of cloud.

The construction of the Chengdu administration’s new headquarters began in 2004, and was completed in 2007, occupying 255 亩**, costing around 12亿元*** (reportedly not including the price of the land), and incorporating a high grade conference centre, visitor centre etc.  Based on pictures leaked on the internet, it has been called ‘China’s most luxurious Government building’.

According to plans, the Chengdu City Committee, the National People’s Congress, City Hall, Municipal Administrations Courts, Prosecutor’s Office, close to 70 departments, would move into the centre in 2008.  However just as the relocation process was commencing, the Wenchuan earthquake struck.  On the 15th of July, a Chengdu City Committee member stated that the new Government building would be auctioned, with all the proceeds given to the disaster relief programme, but this was the last that Chengdu residents would read in the media about the new office building.

Ordinary companies would not be able to afford an office space taking up 255 亩, and ones who could would not be unlikely to deal with such a difficult situation, as the auction was by no means formal and seemed already to have fallen through.  At the current time, Chengdu City government departments have already stealthily occupied the building, while it is clear that the media has been forbidden to report on the Government building and the moving arrangements.

In the last few days I have telephoned the Chengdu administration’s general office, the dialogue was as follows.  Question: ‘When will the entire City Government more into the new building?’ Answer: ‘We are not clear about this’.  Response: ‘After the earthquake wasn’t the building to be sold, what’s up with that?’ Response: ‘Who are you? Why are you asking this?’ I respond: ‘I am an ordinary citizen, I want to understand the state of affairs’.  Response:  ‘We are not too clear’.  Question: ‘So who is clear?  I ought to speak with that department?’ Respons: I don’t know. (Phone hangs up).

Soon after I dial the Mayor’s hotline, 12345.  After hearing the call back tone, the phone informs me ‘the line you have called is busy’.  I called again in the morning, afternoon and at night, and everytime ‘the line you have called is busy’.   I also sent SMS messages to the Mayor’s inquiry mailbox, and at the time of writing have yet to receive a response.

* what? um think that’s 20 x 100 million rmb, so maybe £20,000,000,000

** mu! Unit of area equal to one fifteenth of a hectare.  So 38250000 square metres.

*** £12,000,000,000

At this point 6327 of the readers post their comments.

So does he deserve to hold onto his crown as blogger #1?  One comment would make me happy.  And not on the mistakes in my translation!

More thrilling yarns are available at http://blog.sina.com.cn/twocold


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