1 November, 2005

china blog blocking

The Nanny has been acting exceptionally vicious in the past week - shutting mainland Chinese access to Wikipedia and TypePad sites. Plus a filtering-related block on Danwei on a post related to Taishi village (something similar, I had noted, happened to Simon World and Blood and Treasure a week ago).

As I noted yesterday, AsiaPundit has been blocked in China as part of a broadening of a block on all TypePad hosted sites. It seems that earlier today the Peking Duck and China Digital Times were blocked in Shanghai and other locations. According to comment from bloggers, the blocks are still on in some locations but not others.

Lin also notes in the comments here that blogger sites are available in Beijing. While there was a brief openness last week, they can no longer be accessed in Shanghai. A keen tool for seeing whether a site is blocked is the virtual trace route, available for Shanghai and Beijing.

Fons noted that the TypePad block coincided with the moving of servers. That leaves me wondering whether the two are related. TypePad sites that are hosted under ‘blogs.com’ domains have been blocked for several months while those under ‘typepad.com’ domains have not been. A consolidation to a new server could have caused a extension of an existing block for technical reasons.

More curious are the CDT and Peking Duck outages, the block on the latter still continuing in some areas. As I am interested in how the firewall works, I would like to know which sites are blocked in which areas. I’d ask for posts in the comments here, but that would be pointless (”please leave a comment if you cannot read this.”). If a China-accessible blog would care to set up a firewall- and filtering-monitoring service it would be appreciated.

I doubt the TypePad ban is specifically targeted at this blog. I don’t believe anything too sensitive has been posted here. I have recently received a copy of the new Jung Chang and Jon Halliday book and was considering a review. That would probably do it.

MaoMr. Ralph R. Reiland poses the question:

How many innocent people does a communist tyrant have to kill before The New York Times gets really mad? Answer: More than 70 million.

Seventy million is a good estimate of the number of Chinese who perished under Mao’s reign of terror and ineptitude, the victims of their own government’s decades of torture, famine, forced labor, purges, assassinations, ethnic massacres and class genocide.

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by @ 11:56 pm. Filed under Blogs, China, Asia, East Asia, Northeast Asia, Media, Web/Tech, Weblogs, Censorship

beijing’s smog

Via  the now banned-in-China Bill’s Due, the Guardian reports that Beijing has been awarded the inauspicious claim of being the world’s most-polluted city.:

ArsenalAs it gears up to host the 2008 Olympic Games Beijing has been awarded an unwelcome new accolade: the air pollution capital of the world.

Satellite data has revealed that the city is one of the worst environmental victims of China’s spectacular economic growth, which has brought with it air pollution levels that are blamed for more than 400,000 premature deaths a year.

According to the European Space Agency, Beijing and its neighbouring north-east Chinese provinces have the planet’s worst levels of nitrogen dioxide, which can cause fatal damage to the lungs.

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by @ 10:14 pm. Filed under China, Asia, East Asia, Northeast Asia

must read! imagethief on china’s media

Beijing-based blogger and PR flack Imagethief has weighed in with a very meaty essay relating to the light argument between myself and Bingfeng last week.

… Bingfeng is half right. There is “collusion between media and business [that] has evolved into more sophisticated forms that influence/manipulate the public.” We call that public relations, and it’s what I do for a living. But no matter how distasteful you might find it, it is not necessarily corrupt, and seems not to have undermined civil society in most of the rest of the world.

The origins of the transportation claim notwithstanding, blaming MNCs and PR companies for corruption in the Chinese media is absurd. Complicit though they may sometimes be, it’s like blaming vultures for the death of your horse in the desert. This argument is the reframing of a victimization theme I often see wielded against foreigners and multinationals when discussing problems in China. It plays well on nationalist sentiments and often does a really good job of deflecting attention away from serious, underlying issues worthy of scrutiny. The Chewbacca defense, as Myrick pointed out.

Furthermore, to suggest that a cleaner media will lead to fewer restrictions on free speech is, quite simply, to put the cart before the horse. I believe the exact opposite is true. Free speech and a less fettered press are much more likely to be effective weapons against corruption.

There’s a lot of great info and argument in the post on the nature of Chinese media. Do read the rest.

I will note that on the ‘transportation claim,’ Will makes a reasonable point.:

In case you are wondering, although I think it’s a bad idea, I don’t feel that the transportation claim is corrupt. Media corruption thrives in the dark, when its influence is hidden. The transportation claim is completely matter-of-fact and auditable. You can follow the trail, from our cost estimate for events to our invoices to clients to the list of exactly which journalists showed up at a press event, and their sign-in signatures. It’s never guaranteed us good coverage, or even attendance at events. Frankly, I think it’s a desperate waste of money, and it will be a good day for the maturity of Chinese media when it is abolished. But that will only happen when the Chinese media decide for themselves to abolish it, or when all companies with PR efforts in China, both local and foreign, decide to abolish it together. It would take a company with a large risk appetite indeed to unilaterally decide no longer offer the transportation claim, especially while their competitors still did.

I expect that the ‘transportation claim’ is so widely done here that it is expected by some local journalists. I further believe that it does not guarantee positive coverage, but that failing to offer cash could cause the reverse. I still consider it payola, but an argument could be made that it is now so common it is more like institutionalized extortion.

I have a lot of respect for many of the local media I have encountered - there are many good journalists here, especially in the business press. I also know many PR flacks who are helpful and earnest. I wouldn’t suggest that anyone is corrupt as an individual, but I do see this as a corrupt institutional practice.

Barring the emergence of trend-setting leadership, solutions to the payola problem will indeed require a serious joint effort on the part of businesses, PR firms and media managers.

The latter could try a code of ethics and boosting local reporters’ salaries. Higher salaries, as Lee Kwan Yew would argue, deter people from accepting bribes. I also imagine that expected cash from ‘transport claims’ is priced-in to salary offers by local media operations. If a media company were to forbid reporters from accepting such cash, it would have to offer legitimate compensation.

Better still, government could simply outlaw the practice. That would save on promotion costs for local and foreign firms, spare PR firms an ethical dilemma and would likely cause quite a bit of upset among local hacks (which may, in turn, encourage a more critical and independent press).

UPDATE: Ian Lamont discusses the issue from a Taiwan perspective.

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by @ 8:52 pm. Filed under Taiwan, Asia, East Asia, Northeast Asia, Media

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