AsiaPundit is pleased to report that government-blocked websites such as the BBC’s news portal and HRI China can be accessed on mobile devices in China with the installation of the Opera Mini browser.
While phones with WAP capabilities have built-in browsers, these have to go through the same firewalls that plague China’s conventional internet. The Opera Mini, however, “uses a remote server to pre-process Web pages before sending them to your phone.”
From the Opera Mini Wikipedia entry:
Unlike normal web browsers, Opera Mini fetches all content through a proxy that runs the layout engine of the Opera desktop browser. The engine on the proxy server reformats webpages into a width that is suitable for small screens using Opera’s Small Screen Rendering. The content is compressed, then delivered to the phone in a markup language called OBML (Opera Binary Markup Language). When the content reaches the phone it has been reduced in size by typically 70-90%.
This was designed to improve loading speed and rendering of content for the small screen. However, the end effect is the same as what can be achieved using proxy servers or web-based services such as Anonymouse and Virtual-Browser. Unlike the Anonymouse service, which is disabled by the Great Firewall’s keyword filtering, the Opera Mini was able to load one particular banned website without any time-out errors.
Viewing web pages through a WAP connection is a slow and expensive process, so this will not bring freedom of information to the masses. The government could also mandate a block on Opera’s server should use of the service become widespread enough to be considered a problem.
Still, AsiaPundit expects that in a few short years more Chinese will be accessing the internet through mobile devices than through PCs (the organic evolution of mobile technologies is a more important revolution than the $100 PC). With that, the discovery of a small chink in the armor should be welcome.
As regular readers know, AsiaPundit was recently redesigned.
AP would recommend that others seeking design work do consider approaching our designer Phin and Apothegm Designs. However, after reading the below Reuters report we now regret that no specific instructions were given for improving this site’s Feng Shui.:
A Web site where the colors hurt your eyes, the music offends your ears or has too much information is probably too cluttered and does not give a positive flow of ch’i,” says Vikram Narayan, a Mumbai-based feng shui practitioner.
The trick, Narayan said, is to remove things in your life or on your Web site that serve no purpose, and keep those things that serve you well.
But how does this apply to your Web site?
Experts say using a combination of astrology and numerology, the ancient sciences will help you choose the right colors, font, placement of graphics and navigation bar to make the perfect Web site.
Brijesh Agarwal of Indiamart, a company offering business solutions to small and medium-sized enterprises, says he has had mixed results on the five sites that his company has designed according to vaastu principles.
“We have found that on three sites the number of hits has increased by 60 percent but the other two sites have not been affected,” said Agarwal.
Until this site’s feng shui is improved, AsiaPundit recommends that readers take their own steps to address deficiencies. For instance, if you have not already done so please reposition your monitor so that all windows open facing either east or south (the directions of warmth and good fortune).
(Article via IndianRaj)
One year after Steven McDermott of Singabloodypore asked if the Singapore blogosphere is infantile, Hwee Hwee Tan of RMIT University offers a more optimistic assessment.:
Along with the increasing popularity of blogs as a means to prosume rather than consume information is an increasing tension between Singapore bloggers and the local news media - a relationship not unlike that between American bloggers and journalists.
This trend is arguably best reflected in the developments leading up to the recent Singapore Election. Aside from Brown and Miyagi’s persistently non-political podcasts, we witness the emergence of citizen journalism in Singapore blogosphere as known and lesser known bloggers including award-winning activist, Yawning Bread and the anonymous blogger behind Singapore Election Watch, made use of the multimedia capabilities on blogs to prosume political rallies and other major events during the election period. Along with these reports on the election events is the emergence of fresh young voices in the Singapore blogosphere, courageous in their attempts to confront and interrogate the flaws in their authoritarian nation-state. The contents of these posts, particularly the podcasts on Opposition Party Rally certainly fly in the face of a recent ban on any online streaming of any explicit political content.
LONDON — The union representing journalists in the UK and Ireland called on its 40,000 members to boycott all Yahoo Inc. products and services to protest the Internet company’s reported actions in China.
The National Union of Journalists said it sent a letter on Friday to Dominique Vidal, Yahoo Europe’s vice president, denouncing the company for allegedly providing information to Chinese authorities about journalists.
The union also said it would stop using all Yahoo-operated services.
Yahoo has been cited in court decisions as supplying China’s government with information to help them identify, prosecute, and jail writers advocating democracy.
“The NUJ regards Yahoo’s actions as a completely unacceptable endorsement of the Chinese authorities,” wrote Jemima Kiss, chairman of the NUJ new media council in the letter to Vidal.
Yahoo spokesperson Mary Osako said the Sunnyvale, California-based company believes it must conduct business in each country in ways that business in each country in ways that comply with local laws.
AsiaPundit is pleased to announce the commencement of the new round of Asia Blog Awards. The awards are based on the Japanese financial year, which ends on March 31, and nominations are now open for the April 1-June 30 period, full-year awards are to be based on the quarterly contests.
Details are below, nominations for the below categories can be made on the individual pages linked below until the end of June 16 (Samoan time).
Awards are at present limited to English-language or dual-language sites.
Region/Country Specific Blogs:
Non-region specific awards:
Some categories may be deleted or combined if they lack a full slate nominations - and some may be added should it be warranted.
Winners will be judged in equal parts on: (a) votes, (b) technorati ranking and (c) judges’ selection.
While judges will naturally have biases, they will hopefully offset imbalances in other areas (such as inevitable cheating in the voting and inflationary blogroll alliances in the Technorati ranks).
The names or sites of the judges will be public.
Judges will be ineligible for nomination. As the awards largely intend on providing exposure to lesser-known sites of merit, we are hopeful that authors of ‘A-list’ sites that tend to dominate such contests will disqualify themselves by being judges.
The contest has been endorsed by previous ABA host Simon who is also serving as a judge (thereby disqualifying Simon World).
Traffic — the most telling and accurate measure of a site’s populatity — may be a consideration in future awards. However, at present, there is no clear or universal way to accurately measure and contrast traffic (sites such as Sitemeter, Statcounter offer results that cannot be compared, while services such as Alexa.com do not work for sites that are not hosted on independent domains).
This is all imperfect and will be tweaked in future events (with transparency, of course).
Most importantly, this is intended to be fun.
Living behind the Great Firewall of China, AsiaPundit has solid proxy software installed on all computers he uses regularly. Generally, he can surf the web freely without much difficulty. Still, there are times that AP finds himself using a machine that does not have any proxies configured. In China, that means much of the internet is inaccessible.
With that, TorPark is an excellent new tool. With a USB-drive keychain AP can now quickly set up a proxy on any PC without installing or having to configure any extra software.:
What is Torpark, exactly?
Torpark is a fully configured combination of Tor (The Onion Router) and Mozilla’s browser technologies, enabled by John T. Haller’s Portable Firefox. As of v1.5, the whole package is wrapped up in a nice single executable with file directory. No installation, no registry keys, no files left behind.
How can this be used?
Lots of ways! It can be used to circumvent censorship firewalls, like at work or in China. It can be used to bypass paying for internet access at a wifi cafe. It can be used at school computers so you can get full access to the internet. And best of all, if there is no key loggers secretly installed on the machine, nobody is going to know where you went, what you saw, who you spoke to, or what you said. It is all encrypted in a tunnel between your computer, and at least three others somewhere in the world. Only after your data has passed through the encrypted and constantly changing tunnel (a tor circuit) will it reach the internet as unencrypted. The data from surfing the internet goes through the same tunnel as well, passing back to you encrypted, where your computer uses Tor to decrypt it to the Torpark browser. When you need a secret and secure tunnel to surf the internet, Torpark is your mobile solution.
After testing today, AP will say that Torpark works as advertised. It was slower than software directly installed on a PC or laptop, but the portability is welcome. AP recommends this to anyone who may be traveling through China or other countries that implement strict online censorship. It should work in internet cafes or hotel business centers without attracting too much attention.
(via Boing Boing)
Internet Censorship Explorer, a blog associated with the Citizen Lab initiative, discovers that while Google is censoring its search results for Google.cn, it is not censoring the keyword-based advertising that is displayed on the site .
After buying an advertisement for the banned website for the Human Rights Watch lobby group, ICE discovers that the ad is displayed on Google.cn.
I created my ad (which does not appear to fall under these categories) for hrw.org, which is censored by google.cn, and it was held in a queue waiting to be viewed and labeled “Family Safe”. Only “Family Safe” ads are allowed to be shown by Google in China. Eventually my ad was approved as “Family Safe” and was labeled as currently being shown…
My ad was being shown on the uncensored Chinese language Google, but not the censored Google.cn. Google checks what ads to deliver by location (determined by IP address) and the language setting of your browser. Despite both of these showing that my language was Chinese and my location was in China the ad did not properly appear.
Eventually, my ad began to be shown on Google.cn. While my ad does not appear every time the keywords are searched, it does periodically appear.
Although there are no search results available for hrw.org, my ad for a censored website did appear on some occasions.
While it is news that the AdWords service does display uncensored advertising on Google.cn, AsiaPundit has been aware of the lack of censorship in AdSense for some time. The right-hand corner of the below screencap, taken in Shanghai minutes ago, clearly indicates that advertisers bidding on China-related terms are not necessarily pro-CCP.
While some groups have over its China censorship, in light of this evidence, AsiaPundit suggests a new tactic of buying Chinese AdWords terms.
Bill Gates and Chinese President Hu Jintao had a lovely dinner yesterday. And China has pledged to help combat the piracy of the firms products. AsiaPundit wonders, however, what China is doing for the company’s on-line ventures — especially the popular MSN Spaces.
The service, at the moment, is largely inaccessible in Shanghai and Beijing. Trace route tests from Shanghai indicate that access is being lost at the level of the Great Firewall. (click for larger image).
Tests on the Beijing side, however,indicate that the loss of data is occurring at the Microsoft side.:
As well as trace route and ‘ping’ testing, attempts to access through browsers in Beijing and Shanghai — including one by Microsoft’s China spokesman — failed. Access also seems to be unavailable in Haining, said the Unabrewer.
However, AsiaPundit was just told that Microsoft’s engineers could access the site at the China headquarters. If so, this would unlikely be a state-ordered block. If it was, the irony would have been rich.
Hu Jintao and Bill Gates just had a lovely dinner together on Tuesday and apparently struck an amicable friendship.:
While expressing admiration for what Gates has achieved at Microsoft, Hu also added jovially that, “Because you, Mr. Bill Gates, are a friend of China, I’m a friend of Microsoft," according to The Seattle Times.
As well as the friendship with Hu, MSN China is a joint venture between Microsoft and Shanghai Alliance Entertainment, a firm owned by a son of former Chinese President Jiang Zemin. On the face of it, one would think that Microsoft is too well connected to be the target of a Firewall-level block.
Besides, Microsoft will block websites as requested, so there really wouldn’t be a need for any state action against the MSN Spaces service.
AsiaPundit has been told that the company’s technicians are looking into the problem, although clear answers will not likely be available until people start waking up in Redmond. Accidental blocks often occur when website changes are made by content providers, as had happened with the New York Times recently. Sites are also accidently unblocked when changes are made, as happened to TypePad when it changed servers last year.
For now, AP is inclined to believe that the MSN Spaces problem is of a technical nature. That’s a shame. While a Firewall-level block would no doubt be a great disappointment to local users of MSN Spaces, it would also have been a great news story.
Following the almost universally damned launch of Google’s censored Chinese service, AOL in February received praise from some quarters for launching a Chinese language portal that would offer uncensored content. However, it said the service would be Chinese speakers living outside of the mainland.
It was announced yesterday that Shanghai Media Group (SMG) had reached a deal to provide content to the AOL Chinese portal. Reuters reports on the deal here and Xinhua reports on it here.
While it had gone largely unnoticed in initial news reports that the original Google Chinese language site () remained available in China alongside the censored , it has gone completely unnoticed that the AOL service has been rendered inaccessible in mainland China.
A SMG spokeswoman said that the company was aware that the service was unavailable in Mainland China and restated that the AOL portal is intended for overseas Chinese.
Essentially, Google is still providing uncensored search results in China while AOL now is buying Chinese content from a state-linked media group to broadcast outside of China.
There’s nothing necessarily wrong with that. AsiaPundit just finds it funny.
AsiaPundit is pleased to report that central planning is alive and well in the new ‘wired’ China. Via 活龙行天下, a summary of key work areas of the Ministry of Information Industry (MII).:
Overall requirements: Guided by the Deng Xiaoping theory and the important thoughts of Three Represents, the spirits of the Sixteenth National Congress of the Party, the 5th Session of the Central Committee of the Party and the Central Economic Working Conference; to implement the Concept of Scientific Development, make China a telecom and electronic giant, focus on structural adjustments and strategic transformation, improve the quality and efficiency of development, center on technological innovations and strengthen the core competitiveness of the information industry; to transform the functions of the government, create a good environment for the development of the industry; to apply information technology (IT), strengthen the IT promotion and application, to base on the people-first principle, provide good products and services to the public and promote the sustained, rapid, coordinated and healthy development of the information industry.
Much more below the jump, if you can tolerate it.
CCTV, the Chinese state-owned broadcaster, has launched a new website in collaboration with Rupert Murdoch’s FOX news.:
CCTV International and CCTV.com formally launched an updated and revamped English website on Tuesday, at English.cctv.com. The newly designed website is expected to better serve Internet surfers, and also to help boost viewing figures for CCTV International’s TV programs.
Three partners are jointly announcing the launch of CCTV International’s new website. Collaborating with Fox Cable network and CCTV.COM, CCTV International hopes joint efforts will strengthen its image among current and potential viewers. And also to increase viewers for TV programs on CCTV International — through the www.cctv.com website…
…FOX Cable Networks offered help with the design of the new web-page. The company says this is only the beginning of cooperation between Fox and CCTV International. Fox says the new webpage provides a source for the world to get to know about China.
Perhaps all of those who were damning Google for the censored China site will now damn FOX for assisting CCTV, which has much more aggressive censorship policies than any US search engine.
Frequent readers will note that AsiaPundit has a love of maps and a fascination with internet censorship. It shouldn’t be any surprise that this grabs his attention. The Atlantic has created a map of the globe color coding countries that censor the internet.:
The Atlantic has created a censorship map based on ONI data. (I’ve archived a local mirror of the map and the accompanying article).
The accompanying article is a bit overzealous in its description of China but I liked that fact that the article specifically highlighted that Internet filtering is not exclusive to China but is spreading — essentially becoming the “norm” — worldwide. In terms of targetted content, porn is defintely targetted but the numbers are skewed by the fact that the use of commercial lists (there are open source lists too) allow countries to block a lot of porn easily. But in terms of significance porn is, in my opinion, of rather low importance. the blocking of several key sources of local language alternative information or an social movement group is much more important. The sgnificance of the content rather than the total number of sites blocked in category seems, to me, to be of more importance but is much harder to measure.
Map and text via Internet Censorship Explorer.
Political podcasting and streaming videos are prohibited in Singapore’s coming election.:
Podcasting will not be allowed during elections as it does not fall under the “positive list” which states what is allowed under election advertising.
Senior Minister of State for Information, Communications and the Arts Balaji Sadasivan added that streaming of videos during campaigning would also be prohibited.
He was addressing a question in Parliament on Monday about the use of new technologies on the internet during hustings.
Pictures of candidates, party histories and manifestos are on the “positive list” and are allowed to be used as election advertising on the internet.
Newer internet tools like podcasting do not fall within this “positive list”.
Dr Balaji said: “There are also some well-known local blogs run by private individuals who have ventured into podcasting. The content of some of these podcasts can be quite entertaining. However, the streaming of explicit political content by individuals during the election period is prohibited under the Election Advertising Regulations. A similar prohibition would apply to the videocasting or video streaming of explicitly political content.”
Bloggers can continue - but if they get too political they will have to register … and then shut up.:
Dr Balaji added that individual bloggers can discuss politics, but have to register with the Media Development Agency if they persistently promote political views.
When registered, they’re then not allowed to advertise during elections - something only political parties, candidates and election agents are allowed to do only.
Before any ‘free speech’ advocates gets in a huff about this - AsiaPundit will note that private citizens will likely be allowed to make political speeches at Speakers’ Corner after registering with police.:
As such, this ban on political blogging is not a ban on free speech. It is merely a means to bridge the digital divide. Singapore’s technology savvy bloggers will now have to queue with their digitally disabled fellow citizens for a chance to talk at the Lion City’s only authorized free speech zone.
The PAP are not oppressive, this is merely a means to bring all Singaporeans together.
Shortly after launching Danwei TV (see episode one and two), Jeremy of Danwei has been invited to participate in a roundtable on PBS’s Frontline. The questions will likely revolve around censorship, although Bingfeng seems to be unable to post the list of questions without his blog service provider’s censorship software kicking in.:
a participant asked me if im interested. i am doing preparations for a vacation and my job keeps me very busy. sorry for light blogging and not being able to participate. i wlll write something on it and keep you updated about the panel discussion.
first round of questions as follows:
sorry, the following warnings repeated when i try to post the questions, which contain some "sensitive words", here, i failed to post the quesitons even after i modified all the "sensitive words".
i will try it later today.
fu*k the censorship system, see you soon.
Post operation failed. The error message related to this problem was as follows: Illegal Characters Found
Via Gizmodo, a Singapore-developed tech product that is far more useful than the remote chicken hugging device that the Lion City earlier developed. Here is a pocket lie detector called “the DeFIBulator.“:
There are two ways to describe the DeFIBulator: a portable lie detector, if you’re feeling sensational, or a portable tension detector, if you’re feeling honest. Developed in Singapore, it purports to measure varying degrees of vibration in someone’s voice to 65% accuracy.
AsiaPundit is not alone in noticing a rise in economic nationalism in the US. Hopefully this will all die down after the election cycle plays out.
China’s Lenovo, the owners of IBM’s personal computer division, are facing the ire of Congress after winning a sizable government contract. Mutant Frog comments.:
The New York Times today is reporting that a number of Congressmembers from both parties are in an uproar over an announcement that Chinese-owned Lenovo computers has won a bid to supply 15,000 machines to the US State
The opposition seems to be a combination of misguided economic nationalism, mixed with a vague but real appreciation of possible security concerns. Surprisingly, this article does not mention the security chip Lenovo has been installing on their domestic models. Now, it would of course be trivial to see whether nor not that chip is installed on the machines being purchased by the State Department, but doing a full-blown security audit would probably be enough trouble so that it would become more economical to just go to the next lowest bidder instead.
The real question is this: are the possibly security concerns serious enough to justify the panic? Supporters of the deal point out that the computers will be used only for unclassified work, but honestly that shouldn’t do anything to relieve you. Most of the government’s paperwork is unclassified, but still not public-think of things like personnel records and so on that would be of great usefulness as intelligence.
Meanwhile, ‘China’s’ Hutchison Whampoa is attracting attention for winning a contract to check cargo shipments for radiation. Milton J Madison comments.:
Hutchison Whampoa, a global leader in the ports business is being paid to install and operate their equipment in the Bahamiam port. Rest assured, however, that as indicated by hyper-partisan Chuck Shumer’s remarks [one of my hometown legislators that used to represent a district in central Brooklyn and is now the senior senator from New York State, and judging from comments that he made in the past in his representitive capacity, is amongst one of the most stupidest and most socialist members of US legislative bodies. Additionally, he along with Senator Graham are sponsoring legislation to slap huge tariffs on Chinese exports to the US in pyrrhic and useless push to preserve low paying manufacturing jobs in the US], that the do nothing Democrats will be using this as another wedge against Bush Administration in this election year.
The way that I look at this, is in fighting against terrorism, their is no silver bullet or perfect defense. But one can attempt to cut down the avenues of attack and work towards the ultimate goal of protecting the American homeland. If a foreign entity is hired to assist in this, and there is no American counterpart that is prepared or equipped to do the job, then foreign operated firms must be hired to do these jobs.
Via Google video, a talk on Google China with Rebecca MacKinnon and Tomothy Wu.:
There are no fireworks in the talk and both Rebecca and Tim agree, in the end, that Google did screw up with Google.cn
Via Virtual China, a map of places where you should be careful in Hangzhou:
Chinastic reports on an emerging map of places where pickpockets hang out in the southern Chinese city of Hangzhou. It was originally posted on a site called “My E-City”, (我的E都市) which claims to be the world’s first “online 3D urban simulation.” The site allows users to view, navigate, and add information to online maps of several Chinese cities.
AsiaPundit could have used one of these in Nanjing, where his mobile phone was lifted over the weekend.
AsiaPundit had some harsh words for the BBC last month after the Financial Times reported on the launch of a parallel BBC Chinese website and alleged that the Beeb would be censoring their content.
The BBC denied the allegation and said that the site was not part of its news operations but was part of its language program. Further, it added that while it would mostly be offering British news of a cultural nature, which would unlikely offend the Chinese government, it would not be censoring its service.
While AP was initially harsh on the BBC after reading the allegations in the FT, he would like to note the service was true to its word and did not censor its site.
Nick Wong earlier this month reported that the BBC’s allegedly censored site was briefly blocked on the Mainland after putting a report on its fromt page regarding the Tiananmen Mothers’ Group.
Via We Make Money Not art, a look inside the gold farm.:
When I entered a gold farm for the first time (tietou’s gaming workshop in the preview), I was shocked by the positive spirit there, the farmers are passionate about what they do, and there is indeed a comraderie between them … I do see suffering and exploitation too, but in that place suffering is mixed with play and exploitation is embodied in a gang-like brotherhood and hierarchy. When I talked with the farmers, they rarely complained about their working condition, they only complained about their life in the game world.
AsiaPundit is noticing much oddness with China’s Great Firewall right now. Google in
Shanghai but remains accessible in Beijing and Xiamen.
Even stranger, unproxied access is currently possible for two strictly forbidden FLG sites (http://www.ninecommentaries.com/ and http://english.epochtimes.com).
Are any other China users experincing either problems with Google sites or finding other weirdness, such as blocks being mysteriosuly lifted or imposed?
(Upperdate: GZ Expat says yes to Google but no to the FLG in Guangzhou. And Fons has noted that he had been seeing a change in the way blocks are implemented - with access being denied at the municipal Shanghai level rather than nationally.)
(Uppestdate: AsiaPundit is more puzzled by the accesibility of the FLG sites than the inaccessibility of Google in Shanghai. He can’t think of any reason for the former. The crackdown is still policy.
However perhaps the Google outage is due to an excessively large number of people using the search engine today to find nude Chinese .)
In spite of complaints of redirection at Peking Duck and Boing Boing, Google has not started to redirect Mainland Chinese users to its censored service. Further, AsiaPundit has not noticed any redirection on the Great Firewall side.:
Both Google.com and the can be reached from various locations in Beijing. The above image shows search results, conducted from a Beijing IP address on the censored and uncensored versions.
Jeremy at Danwei reviews two very different China-focused cover stories from Time and Newsweek and notes, the revolution will not be blogged.
While Western commentators, including yours truly, love to get excited about censorship and freedom of expression in China, the future happiness of a fifth of the world’s population is likely to depend on a much more basic right: the definition and protection of private property, and especially the when it comes to usage and ownership of land in rural areas.
In which light it is worth comparing recent cover stories of the Asian editions of Time and Newsweek.
The Newsweek cover story about bloggers, by Sarah Schafer, is not bad: Blogger Nation: A proliferation of voices is slowly dismantling the status quo in China.
The cover is reproduced above; note the cover lines: Beijing vs. bloggers.
It’s a shame that whoever wrote and designed that cover decided to go for such sensationalistism.
When you consider that Massage Milk, the star blogger of the piece, continues to says that the recent shutdown of his blog was a joke directed against Western media, you realize that it’s not exactly Beijing vs. bloggers here.
It seems that very, very few people are blogging for revolution or radical change in China.
The real revolution?
Time’s China zeitgeist cover tackles a different issue: the problems of the rural poor. The story, by Hannah Beech, is titled Seeds of fury.
The basic premise is stated in the last line:
"The entire village is doomed anyway. We have no money, no job, no land. There’s nothing left to be scared of." If angry farmers truly lose their sense of fear, it may ultimately be Beijing that is running scared.
China’s internet police are so scary they can cause a grown man to faint.:
In Chongqing, China, the police inspection team entered an Internet bar in the morning. About seven or eight students were present. One student was concentrating hard on pornographic websites and was totally unaware of the police officers behind him. The officers stood there for a miute and then they asked him to cooperate. The student stood up, his body wavered and he passed out. The police gave him some water and he came to a few minutes later. He said, "I was scared." The student was brought back to the station when he apologized and was let off with a lecture and a warning.
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