What are the chances and possible consequences of democratisation in China?

None, because the strongest forces outside the ruling clique are a cult, nationalists, and Maoists. If they do make a democracy, it will be a democracy in name only with 1-2 parties that are made up of ex CCP officials.

The following is a list of potential rivals to the current leadership:

None, because the strongest forces outside the ruling clique are a cult, nationalists, and Maoists. If they do make a democracy, it will be a democracy in name only with 1-2 parties that are made up of ex CCP officials.

The following is a list of potential rivals to the current leadership:

Category 1: Significant Forces

Falun Dafa – Formerly China’s largest religion, Falun Dafa in exile is the the most vocal and well funded Chinse opposition group. Most of the movement’s 100 million followers were middle aged women, but the movement since the crackdown has been led by wealthy and well-educated exiles, who have funded a vast empire of opposition activities. Falun Dafa’s projects include two written mouthpieces: minghui and epoch times, TV network New Tang Dynasty, the Shen Yun cultural festival (which ends with a depiction of a typhoon destroying Shanghai), and English language propaganda outlet China Uncensored. Falun Gong also runs Tuidang yundong, a volunteer effort which does mail and phone campaigns in China to encourage CCP members to resign their membership. Their claimed “body count” is larger than the total number of CCP members. In the late 1990s, Falun Gong posed a potential (but unrealized) threat to the Chinese government, as it claimed over 100 million members on the mainland in good authority and organized Tiananmen-style marches against the CCP. The religion was severely suppressed by the Jiang Zemin administration, and today its adherents in mainland China most likely number in the hundreds of thousands.

Key to the success of the suppression campaign was a 2001 self-immolation incident, which Falun Dafa stated was staged. Western observers were quick to point out the incongruities in the incident (including the presence of firefighters just yards away from where the incident took place, ready to put out the flames). The CCP has since done interviews with one of the perpetrators to try to counteract this narrative. At the time, the self-immolation incident painted Falun Gong practitioners as insane, and created a social stigma towards the religion that aided its persecution.

While well-funded and well-organized, Falun Gong is seen in the same light by Chinese as Westerners see Scientology, as its Tuidang campaign is widely parodied on Chinese social media.

Maoists – Probably the most serious threat to the Xi regime today, and one of the few forces that is still regularly demonstrating. The purge of Maoists is ongoing but has been more subtle than crackdowns against other forces, because there is sympathy for Mao within the government, and especially within the senior ranks of the PLA. High-ranking Maoists inside the PLA include Major General Li Shenming, who contradicted the CCP’s official history by denying that the Great Leap Forward led to human deaths (on the CCP’s own website, mind you), and Mao’s grandson, Mao Xinyu. While retaining their rank within the PLA, both men were removed from important posts early in the Xi administration. Still, sympathy for Maoism within the government means that Maoist agitators like Yuan Yuhua continue to give speeches at universities. The government has vaccilated on the main Maoist agitation/news outlet, Maoqi Network. The site was banned and unbanned several times before finally being unbanned in 2017.

Perhaps the most famous Chinese Maoist in the West was Bo Xilai, party secretary of Chengdu. Bo made waves in Western and Chinese media as the first high-profile corruption case prosecuted by the Xi administration. Western outlets suspected that his prosecution was in response to his public campaign for a position on the Standing Committee, China’s highest governing body. Public campaigning to influence CCP promotions is a taboo within the Communist Party, and Bo’s neo-Maoist movement was dismantled as a result. However, his supporters and subordinates reorganized into the “Zhixiandang”, a Chongqing Maoist party, but it was banned later that year. Low-level protests continued, reportedly until 2017.

Maoism in China is divided into several segments. In 1989, Tiananmen leader Chen Ziming said that Maoists were divided into two categories: those with fond memories of Mao, and those who thought Mao was still relevant. This is still true today. Most Chinese are at least partially in the first category, especially rural people, the elderly, and those who feel left out of the country’s development. While the party has grown internally critical of Mao, he is still widely praised in popular media.

The second category are the left wing of the CCP, whose fortunes have waxed and waned, but who still constitute a force. After Mao’s death in 1976, the left wing “Gang of Four”, led by his wife, was purged by Hua Guofeng and Deng Xiaoping. However, a remnant of this faction survived, led by future premier Li Peng. During the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests, the left within the CCP recovered their prominence after the right, led by Zhao Ziyang, failed to contain the protests with an appeasement approach. Li convinced Deng Xiaoping to purge the right, crack down on the protests, and restore state control over the economy. After Li’s retirement, the left-CCP was led by Luo Gan. Much of the left has been purged by Xi after his takeover, but some officials survive.

Besides Zhixiandang, there have been other short-lived attempts to organize a Maoist party separate from the CCP. One party attracted media attention in 2009, but was last reported about in 2012.

Nationalists – By far the most potent faction today. While Maoism is popular among the PLA’s generals, ultranationalism runs strong among the junior officers, who routinely (and very publicly) brainstorm ways to destroy the US and conquer Asia. The most outspoken member of this group is Colonel Dai Xu, who founded his own think tank dedicated to sinking the US navy, and writes a column devoted to rallying his countrymen against America and China’s regional enemies. In case this wasn’t enough, he also has a blog. He still holds his rank in the armed forces while doing all this, mind you, and is a senior lecturer at the PLA war college.

Also prominent in this group is Colonel Liu Mingfu, who has written a number of books about China’s prospects to create a new world order, based on “superior cultural genes”. The “hawks”, as they’re called in China, appear to be Xi’s favored faction of the PLA. Xi has adopted a number of their recommendations for the modernization of the PLA, and appointed Wei Fenghe, a missile commander connected to the group, as defense minister last year. While generally outranked by the Maoist old guard in the senior ranks, the nationalists have the upper hand because their seniors have largely been kicked upstairs since 2013-15.

Nationalism is extremely popular among ordinary Chinese, so much so that one could say China’s dominant ideology is not Communism, but nationalism. The nine dash line is the single most popular WeChat avatar, and the CCP frequently tries to calm down grassroots nationalist responses, such as the boycott on Japanese goods and the public’s response to the Xinjiang question. In other cases, the regime mobilizes nationalism for its own benefit. Despite this, there is no nationalist popular organizations like there are for Maoists, meaning the nationalist faction, for the time being, is strictly a military one.

Category 2: Illegal Cults

Illegal religions in China are those not controlled or registered under state associations. Since 2003, they have been persecuted by the 610 Office, which was originally dedicated only to Falun Gong. Cults have been a major source of rebellion throughout Chinese history, and the CCP’s current policy of suppressing any religion that gets too large is a mirror of Imperial policy. This in turn makes cult members criminals in the eyes of the central government, and makes them easy to stir to rebellion.

Spirit Sect – Founded in 1986 by a man named Hua Xue, this Christian sect has attracted a following among rural peasantry in Shandong. Hua was sentenced to forced labor in 1990 for “hooliganism”, but his cult persisted and several members were put on trial in 2014.

Disciple Society – Influenced by the suppressed “Jesus Family”, Disciple Society was founded in 1989 by Ji Sanbao, and preached that prayers and faith could increase the grain harvest. The cult’s third leader, Chen Shirong, was jailed, but the cult retains a membership potentially in the hundreds of thousands, and made headlines in 2014 with a suicide controversy.

Three Grades of Servants – A cult at one point retaining hundreds of thousands of members, whose existence today is questionable. In 2018, the government convicted Yunnan peasants allegedly part of this organization, but this was disputed by cult watchers. In the 2000s, the organization was involved in assassinations against its rival, Eastern Lightning.

Eastern Lightning – Probably the largest illegal cult in China besides Falun Dafa, Eastern Lightning is a considerable force with 4 million members. The organization has “defeated” a number of smaller cults and occupies a prominent position in sections of rural China. It runs a very amusing youtube channel and has been implicated in murders.

Category 3: Insignificant/Defunct Forces

Guo Wengui – A billionaire who escaped to his Manhattan loft and claimed to have inside knowledge of the CCP’s corruption. His documents have since been discredited. The CCP evidently doesn’t consider him much of a threat, since their response has been muted. Apparently, he was still running his company through local proxies in 2018, and probably still is to this day. A pretty cool guy in person though.

Weiquan – While not really a political faction or movement, weiquan are the Chinese equivalent of cause lawyers, offering free legal counsel to people who have been persecuted by the government. In 2016, several were arrested in a limited crackdown.

New Citizen’s Movement – A grassroots organization which staged small protests in China in the early 2010s, based largely on the work of Xu Zhiyong. The movement spread its literature through social media, but was largely destroyed by crackdown in 2013-14.

Democracy Party of China – A movement founded by Tiananmen activists based out of New York City. Until relatively recently, it was running “infiltration campaigns”, which were essentially mail campaigns into China to undermine the CCP. The last campaign was photographed on their website, dated to 2014. It is still holding rallies in the US, the most recent of which was last month.

New Democracy Party of China – A short lived party, founded by a human rights activist. He was arrested in 2008, and the site went defunct the year after.

Category 4: Imaginary Forces

“Princelings” and “Tuanpai” – An outdated and over-simplistic view of CCP internal politics that has since fallen out of favor. When Xi took over, many commentators hypothesized that there were two factions, “Princelings” and the Tuanpai, or “Youth League” faction, who came from different backgrounds (party families vs. peasant/worker families) and existed in different patronage networks. This view has since been contradicted by Xi’s behavior. In the “first round” of Xi’s purges, officials of commoner background were the main victims, but afterr 2016, he enlisted commoners to purge fellow princelings. The “princeling” faction was never that united to begin with, and it has now become clear that Xi intended from the beginning to eliminate people on both “sides”.

“Jiang faction” and “Hu faction” – Another over-simplistic view of the CCP – at the start of Xi’s first purge, some observers believed he was getting rid of the allies of Jiang and Hu. There is some truth in this – many of Jiang’s old allies, like former security chief Zhou Yankang, were removed, but others were incorporated. Hu Jintao’s protege, Li Keqiang, has become Xi’s long-time right hand man. Just like the princelings and tuanpai, these factions were probably never that coherent to begin with.

“CCP Plasticity”

The CCP does not seem to have “factions” in the traditional sense (groups following a leader), but instead has loose conglomerations of people with the same ideas. While details about the CCP’s current deliberations are obscure, we have a lot of information about CCP infighting in the 70s and 80s, dealing with the post-Mao crises and Tiananmen Square, and in 2012 dealing with the Bo Xilai crisis. All the evidence points to the CCP being an “every man for himself” environment, where the leader calls meetings of the Standing Committee to decide major issues, and everyone bickers and tries to assert their own viewpoint. The arguments about China’s growth trajectory in the 70s and 80s led to Hua Guofeng’s retirement and Deng Xiaoping’s instatement as Paramount Leader. The Tiananmen crisis led to Zhao Ziyang briefly convincing Deng and the Standing Committee on his appeasement approach, before Li Peng convinced them it wasn’t working. In the purge of Bo Xilai, the entire Standing Committee met to discuss the issue, and came to an agreement that Bo should be purged. The CCP pursues no consistent policy besides what the group decides, which depends on the persuasiveness of each individual and how the crisis shapes in favor of one position or the other. The “plasticity” of the CCP is key to understanding its response to any potential crisis.


So with this in mind, how could the CCP be overthrown, and by whom? There are a couple possibilities.

  1. Revolution: The most hoped for outcome in the West is that the CCP will be completely overthrown after an economic downturn or major scandal. The security apparatus is very strong and good at crackdowns, as shown by the numerous links in this post and by the crackdown against Falun Gong in the 2000s, so I’d rule this one out. If the CCP is overthrown, there will need to be people on the inside who are okay with it – in other words, a coup.
  2. Nationalist Coup: A far more likely scenario. An economic downturn or scandal leads to protests. The military nationalists decide to dispense with the overbearing party, which is “lacking in ambition and vision”. To gain approval from the protesters and achieve their goal of reunification with Taiwan, they declare a “democracy” before forming a conservative ruling party equivalent to the Japanese LDP.
  3. Maoist Coup: Less likely now than six years ago due to the sidelining of many of the Maoist generals. In this scenario, the senior officers move faster than the “hawks” and force the Politburo to elect a new Standing Committee consisting of the left-CCP, triggering a hardline phase in China’s development.
  4. Reform: Far more likely than revolution, there is a chance that, when faced with protests in response to a major shock, the Standing Committee authorizes limited elections. This is less likely than 2 and 3 simply because the CCP’s policy is to suppress dissent, “learning from the lessons of the USSR”. I’ve written more about this here. If this happens, it will most likely spiral out of control as in Eastern Europe and lead to #2.
  5. Revolt: The most likely scenario overall, and not a hopeful one. In the face of a shock, certain illegal cults and isolated opposition groups take matters into their own hands and start an armed rebellion in the poorer parts of China. Ever-hopeful international rivals try to support these rebellions, but ultimately they go nowhere.

What would a democratic China look like?

The most potent forces in the public consciousness today are Maoism and Nationalism. The “mainstream” CCP today is a compromise between these two lines of thought, which has produced a capitalist middle ground that people “consent” to because it’s working so far. A Chinese democracy would be the same thing, just polarized. There would be a Maoist Party, appealing to people who feel left behind in the New China, and a Nationalist Party, appealing to the elite, who would trade majorities with each other. They would broadly agree on a much more aggressive foreign policy than what the CCP, motivated mainly by economic interests, is pursuing now.

Because everyone with any kind of government experience is or was a CCP member, the parties would be led by largely the same people who are running the CCP today. Just, instead of using the “collective decision making process” I described in the section about CCP plasticity, they’d form 2 distinct factions – leftist and rightist – and fight their battles in public.

Originally posted here on Reddit

Hong Kong Free Press: A new, non-profit, independent English language news source for Hong Kong

Do you believe Hong Kong needs a new English language news source? Launching in June, Hong Kong Free Press is an independent news outlet seeking to unite critical voices at a vital time in the city’s constitutional development.

Through our links with Chinese media partners, HKFP strives to bridge the language barrier and raise local and global understanding of Hong Kong issues in the post-Occupy era. Our launch is well-timed, coming amid rising concerns over the decline of press freedom in the territory.

 

A much-needed voice:

With a fast, visual, multimedia design, HKFP will launch with a focus on local breaking news, showcasing translated and viral content while providing a direct platform to expert progressive voices, citizen contributors and advocacy groups.

As a not-for-profit business, HKFP will become more sustainable over time with multiple revenue streams. As we grow, we aim to offer more comment and analysis, investigative journalism, regional coverage and explainers.

Why now?

Reporters Without Borders, the Committee to Protect Journalists, the International Federation of JournalistsHong Kong Journalists Association and Pen America have all reported on the recent decline of press freedom in Hong Kong. With attacks on journalists, advertisers withdrawing from media critical of the establishment along with the existential pressures facing the wider industry, it is ever more vital that the territory has an independent platform for critical voices to be heard.

In addition to highlighting the lack of plurality in the local media landscape, the Umbrella Movement protests exposed a gap between the Chinese and English media. Some stories, themes and angles featured in the Chinese media were missed or ignored by the English press – other stories took days to be reported on.

 

Purpose of crowdfunding and how will the funds be used:

We are seeking to raise HK$150,000 to

  • Complete our website and populate it with content ready for launch.
  • Create a mobile news app for iPhone and Android.
  • Sustain two frontline reporters for two months to oversee our launch period.

Every HK$50,000 over our target will help sustain us for one extra month.

 

Execution Plan 
May-June : Crowdfunding
Late June : Official launch of Hong Kong Free Press

 

Background of project owner

Tom Grundy is the founder and co-director of Hong Kong Free Press. His team consists of:

China’s Paid Trolls: Meet the 50-Cent Party (Includes Hong Kong SAR)

China’s Paid Trolls: Meet the 50-Cent Party

The Chinese government hires people to distort or deflect conversations on the web. Ai Weiwei persuades an “online commentator” to tell all.

By Ai Weiwei [1] Published 17 October 2012

The Chinese government hires people to distort or deflect conversations on the web. Ai Weiwei persuades an “online commentator” to tell all.

New Statesman
(PHOTO: Marcus Bleasdale VII)

In February 2011, Ai Weiwei tweeted that he would like to conduct an interview with an “online commentator”. Commentators are hired by the Chinese government or the Communist Party of China to post comments favourable towards party policies and to shape public opinion on internet message boards and forums. The commentators are known as the 50-Cent Party, as they are said to be paid 50 cents for every post that steers a discussion away from anti-party content or that advances the Communist Party line.

Below is the transcript of Ai’s interview with an online commentator. As requested, an iPad was given as compensation for the interview. To protect the interviewee, relevant personal information has been concealed in this script.

Question: What’s your name, age, city of residence and online username?

Answer: I cannot make my name public. I’m 26. I have too many usernames. If I want to use one, I just register it. I won’t mention them here.

What do you call the work you do now?

It doesn’t matter what you call it: online commentator, public opinion guide, or even “the 50-Cent Party” that everyone’s heard of.

What is your level of education and work experience? How did you begin the work of guiding public opinion?

I graduated from university and studied media. I once worked for a TV channel, then in online media. I’ve always been in the news media industry, for four or five years now.Over a year ago, a friend asked me if I wanted to be an online commentator, to earn some extra money. I said I’d give it a try. Later, I discovered it was very easy.

When and from where will you receive directives for work?

Almost every morning at 9am I receive an email from my superiors – the internet publicity office of the local government – telling me about the news we’re to comment on for the day. Sometimes it specifies the website to comment on, but most of the time it’s not limited to certain websites: you just find relevant news and comment on it.

Can you describe your work in detail?

The process has three steps – receive task, search for topic, post comments to guide public opinion. Receiving a task mainly involves ensuring you open your email box every day. Usually after an event has happened, or even before the news has come out, we’ll receive an email telling us what the event is, then instructions on which direction to guide the netizens’ thoughts, to blur their focus, or to fan their enthusiasm for certain ideas. After we’ve found the relevant articles or news on a website, according to the overall direction given by our superiors we start to write articles, post or reply to comments. This requires a lot of skill. You can’t write in a very official manner, you must conceal your identity, write articles in many dif­ferent styles, sometimes even have a dialogue with yourself, argue, debate. In sum, you want to create illusions to attract the attention and comments of netizens.

In a forum, there are three roles for you to play: the leader, the follower, the onlooker or unsuspecting member of the public. The leader is the relatively authoritative speaker, who usually appears after a controversy and speaks with powerful evidence. The public usually finds such users very convincing. There are two opposing groups of followers. The role they play is to continuously debate, argue, or even swear on the forum. This will attract attention from observers. At the end of the argument, the leader appears, brings out some powerful evidence, makes public opinion align with him and the objective is achieved. The third type is the onlookers, the netizens. They are our true target “clients”. We influence the third group mainly through role-playing between the other two kinds of identity. You could say we’re like directors, influencing the audience through our own writing, directing and acting. Sometimes I feel like I have a split personality.

Regarding the three roles that you play, is that a common tactic? Or are there other ways?

There are too many ways. It’s kind of psychological. Netizens nowadays are more thoughtful than before. We have many ways. You can make a bad thing sound even worse, make an elaborate account, and make people think it’s nonsense when they see it. In fact, it’s like two negatives make a positive. When it’s reached a certain degree of mediocrity, they’ll think it might not be all that bad.

What is the guiding principle of your work?

The principle is to understand the guiding thought of superiors, the direction of public opinion desired, then to start your own work.

Can you reveal the content of a “task” email?

For example, “Don’t spread rumours, don’t believe in rumours”, or “Influence public understanding of X event”, “Promote the correct direction of public opinion on XXXX”, “Explain and clarify XX event; avoid the appearance of untrue or illegal remarks”, “For the detrimental social effect created by the recent XX event, focus on guiding the thoughts of netizens in the correct direction of XXXX”.

What are the categories of information that you usually receive?

They are mainly local events. They cover over 60 to 70 per cent of local instructions – for example, people who are filing complaints or petitioning.

For countrywide events, such as the Jasmine Revolution [the pro-democracy protests that took place across the country in 2011], do you get involved?

For popular online events like the Jasmine Revolution, we have never received a related task. I also thought it was quite strange. Perhaps we aren’t senior enough.

Can you tell us the content of the commentary you usually write?

The netizens are used to seeing unskilled comments that simply say the government is great or so and so is a traitor. They know what is behind it at a glance. The principle I observe is: don’t directly praise the government or criticise negative news. Moreover, the tone of speech, identity and stance of speech must look as if it’s an unsuspecting member of public; only then can it resonate with netizens. To sum up, you want to guide netizens obliquely and let them change their focus without realising it.

Can you go off the topic?

Of course you can go off the topic. When transferring the attention of netizens and

blurring the public focus, going off the topic is very effective. For example, during the census, everyone will be talking about its truthfulness or necessity; then I’ll post jokes that appeared in the census. Or, in other instances, I would publish adverts to take up space on political news reports.

Can you tell us a specific, typical process of “guiding public opinion”?

For example, each time the oil price is about to go up, we’ll receive a notification to “stabilise the emotions of netizens and divert public attention”. The next day, when news of the rise comes out, netizens will definitely be condemning the state, CNPC and Sinopec. At this point, I register an ID and post a comment: “Rise, rise however you want, I don’t care. Best if it rises to 50 yuan per litre: it serves you right if you’re too poor to drive. Only those with money should be allowed to drive on the roads . . .”

This sounds like I’m inviting attacks but the aim is to anger netizens and divert the anger and attention on oil prices to me. I would then change my identity several times and start to condemn myself. This will attract more attention. After many people have seen it, they start to attack me directly. Slowly, the content of the whole page has also changed from oil price to what I’ve said. It is very effective.

What’s your area of work? Which websites do you comment on? Which netizens do you target?

There’s no limit on which websites I visit. I mainly deal with local websites, or work on Tencent. There are too many commentators on Sohu, Sina, etc. As far as I know, these websites have dedicated internal departments for commenting.

Can you tell which online comments are by online commentators?

Because I do this, I can tell at a glance that about 10 to 20 per cent out of the tens of thousands of comments posted on a forum are made by online commentators.

Will you debate with other people online? What sorts of conflicts do you have? How do you control and disperse emotion?

Most of the time we’re debating with ourselves. I usually never debate with netizens and I’ll never say I’ve been angered by a netizen or an event. You could say that usually when I’m working, I stay rational.

When the government says, “Don’t believe in rumours, don’t spread rumours,” it achieves the opposite effect. For example, when Sars and the melamine in milk case broke out, people tended to choose not to trust the government when faced with the choices of “Don’t trust rumours” and “Don’t trust the government”.

I think this country and government have got into a rather embarrassing situation. No matter what happens – for example, if a person commits a crime, or there’s a traffic accident – as long as it’s a bad event and it’s publicised online, there will be people who condemn the government. I think this is very strange.

This is inevitable, because the government encompasses all. When all honour is attributed to you, all mistakes are also attributed to you. Apart from targeted events, are individuals targeted? Would there be this kind of directive?

There should be. I think for the Dalai Lama, there must be guidance throughout the country. All people in China hate the Dalai Lama and Falun Gong somewhat. According to my understanding, the government has truly gone a bit over the top. Before I got involved in this circle, I didn’t know anything. So I believe that wherever public opinion has been controlled relatively well, there will always have been commentators involved.

How do your superiors inspect and assess your work?

The superiors will arrange dedicated auditors who do random checks according to the links we provide. Auditors usually don’t assess, because they always make work requirements very clear. We just have to do as they say and there won’t be any mistakes.

How is your compensation decided?

It’s calculated on a monthly basis, according to quantity and quality. It’s basically calculated at 50 yuan per 100 comments. When there’s an unexpected event, the compensation might be higher. If you work together to guide public opinion on a hot topic and several dozen people are posting, the compensation for those days counts for more. Basically, the compensation is very low. I work part-time. On average, the monthly pay is about 500-600 yuan. There are people who work full-time on this. It’s possible they could earn thousands of yuan a month.

Do you like your work?

I wouldn’t say I like it or hate it. It’s just a bit more to do each day. A bit more pocket money each month, that’s all.

What’s the biggest difficulty in the work?

Perhaps it’s that you have to guess the psychology of netizens. You have to learn a lot of writing skills. You have to know how to imitate another person’s writing style. You need to understand how to gain the trust of the public and influence their thoughts.

Why can’t you reveal your identity? Why do you think it’s sensitive?

Do you want me to lose my job? Whatever form or name we use to post on any forums or blogs is absolutely confidential. We can’t reveal our identity, and I definitely wouldn’t reveal that I’m a professional online commentator.

If we do, what would be the purpose of our existence? Exposure would affect not just me, it would create an even greater negative effect on our “superiors”.

What do you mean by “superiors”?

Our superior leaders – above that should be the propaganda department.

Is your identity known to your family? Your friends?

No. I haven’t revealed it to my family or friends. If people knew I was doing this, it might have a negative effect on my reputation.

You say: “If I reveal inside information, without exaggeration this could lead to fatality.” Do you think that the consequence would be so serious?

With my identity, I’m involved in the media and also the internet. If I really reveal my identity or let something slip, it could have an incalculable effect on me.

If you say you want to quit, will there be resistance? Are there any strings attached?

Not at all. This industry is already very transparent. For me, it’s just a part-time job. It’s like any other job. It’s not as dark as you think.

How many hours do you go online each day and on which sites? Do you rest at the weekend?

I go online for six to eight hours nearly every day. I’m mainly active on our local BBS and some large mainstream internet media and microblogs. I don’t work over weekends, but I’ll sign in to my email account and see if there’s any important instruction.

In daily life, will you still be thinking about your online work?

Now and then. For example, when I see a piece of news, I’ll think about which direction the superiors will request it to be guided in and how I would go about it. It’s a bit of an occupational hazard.

Do you watch CCTV News and read the People’s Daily?

I usually follow all the news, particularly the local news. But I generally don’t watch CCTV News, because it’s too much about harmony.

Do you go on Twitter? Who do you follow?

Yes. I follow a few interesting people, including Ai Weiwei. But I don’t speak on Twitter, just read and learn.

How big a role do you think this industry plays in guiding public opinion in China?

Truthfully speaking, I think the role is quite big. The majority of netizens in China are actually very stupid. Sometimes, if you don’t guide them, they really will believe in rumours.

Because their information is limited to begin with. So, with limited information, it’s very difficult for them to express a political view.

I think they can be incited very easily. I can control them very easily. Depending on how I want them to be, I use a little bit of thought and that’s enough. It’s very easy. So I think the effect should be quite significant.

Do you think the government has the right to guide public opinion?

Personally, I think absolutely not. But in China, the government absolutely must interfere and guide public opinion. The majority of Chinese netizens are incited too easily, don’t think for themselves and are deceived and incited too easily by false news.

Do you have to believe in the viewpoints you express? Are you concerned about politics and the future?

I don’t have to believe in them. Sometimes you know well that what you say is false or untrue. But you still have to say it, because it’s your job. I’m not too concerned about Chinese politics. There’s nothing to be concerned about in Chinese politics.

China Bans the Burqa

BEIJING (AP) — China’s Interior Ministry announced yesterday that it would ban the burqa from being worn in public. The new law, which will be imposed next month, would forcefully put an end to the wearing of modesty-protecting garments for women in public. The new regulations also stipulate fines for wearing certain types of culturally-related clothing.

State-controlled media stated that the ban was necessary in order to maintain security. The Chinese regime is known for keeping widespread surveillance on ordinary civilians, especially ethnic minorities, to prevent possible anti-government activity. Last month an ethnic Tibetan, who was caught stealing on a convenience store’s camera was ordered to pay a fine, even though a number of dissidents criticized the video footage as “unfair evidence”.

The new law is expected to target ethnic minorities, such as the Uyghurs as well as the growing number of African immigrants, both of which already experience widespread discrimination in the racist Chinese society. While many ethnic minorities experience also prejudice if they wear ethnic clothing, but the new law is expected to add to already-existing prejudices.

“The burqa is like a security shield for me,” said one African woman who recently joined her husband and two children in Guangzhou. “In a hostile society, it gives me the confidence I need. People always stare at me when I go by because I am African. The burqa at least helps me emotionally,” she said. Another Ngubago Okulenagu, who has become an advocate for African immigrants working in China called the ban “simply unfair,” and pointed out the failure of the Chinese government’s ability to accommodate new members of society.

Several dissidents and activist rights groups have criticized China’s new law, which has been described as discriminatory. Reporters Without Borders, Amnesty International, and the International Woman’s Rights Group have all condemned the restrictions. US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, responding to the new crackdown also said, “Abridging people’s right to wear cultural symbols violates fundamental human rights,” and urged the Chinese government to reconsider.

Barack Obama nukes the Japanese “Obama”

So there you have it. Yukio Hatoyama, once dubbed the “Japanese Obama” by supporters and the press, has resigned due to the collapse of  his coalition over his failure to remove American bases off of Okinawa.  The irony  is Obama was the one who sealed his Japanese counterpart’s fate by playing hardball at Hatoyama’s repeated attempts to move American forces to bases in mainland Japan.

I often joked that it was Hatoyama’s tacky choice of fashion, and his nutty wife as the cause for his downfall, but I was just joking.  Despite being in power for barely 8 months, Hatoyama proved that the opposition can again break the hard conservative, nationalist Liberal Democratic Party’s stranglehold on government and give people a sense of empowerment in their country’s fate.  Moreover, he was able to cultivate ties with his regional neighbours that brought about improved trade and badly needed diplomatic influence.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/steve-clemons/obama-takes-down-the-wron_b_597038.html?view=print

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hatoyama.jpg
(photo credit: Office of the Prime Minister, Government of Japan)

Japan Prime Minister and Democratic Party of Japan leader Yukio Hatoyama, whose amazing electoral victory last year unseating the long dominant Liberal Democratic Party, has announced that he is stepping down from his position for failing to deliver on a key campaign promise to the Japanese people about moving the US Marine Futenma Air Station off of Okinawa.

I will be arriving in Tokyo tomorrow (on Thursday) and will be in Naha, Okinawa this next Monday.

Hatoyama could not withstand the pressure from Obama — who gave Hatoyama the kind of icy treatment that the White House has also been trying to give Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The problem is Hatoyama wilted, and Netanyahu seems to be thriving.

I recently wrote a piece on the odd dynamic between President Obama and two different Prime Ministers — Netanyahu and Hatoyama — for the Kyodo News Service. It has already run in Japanese, but I post the entire English language version here:

While Israel is given free rein by Obama to shoot up unarmed activists who were bringing in-kind aid to a ravaged part of Palestine in Gaza, the Japanese Prime Minister is told to pick up Obama’s poop when he needed to move bases to protect his coalition government and regain support from his electorate.  I really don’t know what Obama is doing by burning bridges with his Japanese Obama while allowing a right-wing Zionist to do as he pleases with pro-Palestine activists.

Of Presidents & Prime Ministers in the Age of Obama
by Steve Clemons

Jan ken pon. Scissors cut paper. Paper covers Rock. Rock smashes scissors. There is an interesting drama playing out between several world leaders today that reminds of this game.

President Barack Obama seems to be smashing the political fortunes of Japan Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama. On the other hand, Israel’s prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been rebuffing and constraining Obama. Obama and China’s Hu Jintao seem to be stalemated, playing jan ken pon over and over and over again.

Steve Clemons of the New America Foundation is right.  Obama is pissing on his Japanese lackey when he won’t play ball while giving Israel a free pass for all the wrong reasons (some people say it’s due to Liberal Christian American guilt for allowing the Holocaust to happen and for turning away countless Jewish refugees fleeing Nazi-ravaged Europe).

He is also right about Obama and Hu struggle in a locked battle over global influence; America relies on Chinese funds to support its debt-fueled recovery while China depends on American assets to develop its world influence.  To be frank, America’s obscene debt and notable human rights violations has made it very difficult for Obama to even criticise China for their gross corruption, economic inequality and human rights violations.  This is especially the case given America’s War of Terror in Iraq,  the existence of Guantanamo Bay detention centres, and inability to stop an oil spill from killing the Gulf of Mexico.

“Defining challenges” for leaders and nations are those that represent the highest stakes wins and potential losses. The United States, for example, invested enormous blood and treasure in triggering change in Iraq and the broader Middle East and thus the Middle East today is a self-chosen defining challenge for the country. For Barack Obama, there were other defining challenges that he promised to stand by – including closing the Guantanamo Bay detention facility, “stopping” climate change, ending the war in Iraq, achieving Israel-Palestine peace and delivering the opportunity of universal health care coverage to American citizens.

So far, Obama has done nothing to stop the problems noted above and the best he has done is maintain the status quo and making too many concessions for nominal party unity.

Basically:

1. Guantanamo Bay detention centres are here to stay.  Sure, prisoners might be allowed a fair trial but not really.  America bitches about China having prison camps that arbitrarily arrest people without due process, yet it is not too different in Guantanamo Bay and possibly worse since many of those prisoners are there as a result of racial or religious profiling. FAIL

2. Climate change is not going to be stopped.  Obama basically caved in at the Copenhagen Summit per China’s concerns and nothing is done.  His administration has done nothing to fight off fringe claims that Climate Change is a conspiracy or fabricated because of some faulty data and emails from academics in a third-rate university.  FAIL

3. Ending the War in Iraq.  The War of Terror is still a go despite Obama’s claims of gradual troop reductions.  For all intents and purposes, Iraq is a failed state and American troops are the only thing keeping the country from 1) breaking up, 2) becoming a pro-Iran client state, and 3) becoming an haven for terrorists.  The current Iraqi government is simply going to play along with Obama’s agenda until all American troops leave their country. After that they will do as they see fit even if it goes completely against the American-imposed reforms or undoes all progress that was somehow achieved in the American War of Terror. NOT FAIL

4. Israel inspires with its handling of the Gaza peace activists. Obama unconditionally supports Israel and their version of the crisis despite criticism from the rest of the world. Way to go Obama for rewarding bad behaviour and acting as an objective, honest broker in the Israel-Palestine peace process.  No wonder Brazil is making inroads with Israel and the rest of the Middle East while America is viewed as a biased bully.  FAIL

5. Health Care reforms have changed nothing.  The only major change is that the IRS can now fine American taxpayers who refuse to buy any form of health insurance.  I know for a fact nothing has changed for me. My insurance companies still make lame excuses to not cover certain treatments and they will go about making it difficult for insurers and doctors to get their claims processed.  What about the Public Option? Well guys, the Public Option is pretty much dead like Gary Coleman, Dennis Hopper and the Gulf of Mexico. FAIL

Obama’s equation for moving Middle East peace forward was just too quaint and simple. Even though Israel is completely dependent on American security guarantees and aid and is genuinely a client state of the United States, the pugnacious prime minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu, flamboyantly rebuffed Obama’s call to stop settlements. Obama, with some twisting and modification of his position, has essentially forfeited the match to Netanyahu.

During the early part of the John F. Kennedy administration, Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev beat Kennedy in similar challenges and began to doubt Kennedy’s resolve and strategic temperament – leading to the Cuban Missile Crisis. Today, Netanyahu has become the Khrushchev of the Obama administration – and one wonders if a crisis lies ahead in which Obama will have to reassert his primacy lest the world think that Israel runs the United States and the Obama presidency.

Yep, basically the writer suggests Obama is weak leader, which I agree. It’s hard to believe that the world’s sole superpower is being pushed around by a non-oil producing Middle Eastern client state.  Obama is a weak leader as seen by his inability to keep Congress from dicking around with healthcare and finance reforms, by his reluctance to get involved with the oil spill crisis that BP created, and by his unwavering support of Israel’s handling of the unfolding Gaza crisis.

But while the Israeli Prime Minister is beating Obama, Obama is clearly smashing the legacy and political position of Japan Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama.

Hatoyama is conceding on a key campaign promise to move Futenma Marine Air Station off of the heavily US-base covered island of Okinawa. Now, some minor functions of Futenma will be transferred off island, but the bulk of the facility will simply be moved to another section of Okinawa.

Barack Obama put huge pressure on Hatoyama, asking him “Can I trust you?” He has maintained an icy posture towards Hatoyama, hardly communicating with him or agreeing to meetings – making the Prime Minister “lose face.” Contrasting this with the invitation to former Prime Minister Taro Aso to be the first official head of government to visit the White House and Secetary of State Hillary Clinton’s decision to make Tokyo her first foreign destination, one can see that while America seems unable to muster pressure to achieve a “win” with Israel, it is more than able to do so with the leader of a rich nation of 128 million people.

Hatoyama may survive this rebuke of the United States and this policy reversal that has made him appear weak and indecisive before Japan’s citizens, but Obama has been unfair in this standoff with Japan’s prime minister.

Basically a weak leader will simply bully an even weaker leader to appear strong. In this case, Barry H. Obama decided to pick on the Japanese Obama in a sad attempt to prove American strength in East Asia.  While he managed to strong-arm Hatoyama into allowing America to maintain its base in Okinawa, he also managed to lose long-term support from a like-minded world leader and progressive.  Looking at the bigger picture, Obama may have undone potential reform that the DPJ was trying to carry out after working tirelessly to break the LDP’ and the bureaucracy’s dominance in government. Well it looks like Obama’s treatment of Hatoyama is a boon for the old boys network, business leaders, and corrupt officials in Japan.

Obama himself promised to close Guantanamo Bay within one year of his presidency. This was a major commitment, and the administration failed to achieve it. But the US is not a parliamentary democracy where executive leadership can rise and fall over a single issue at any time. Presidents get a time period to stack up their wins and their losses so that when re-election comes around, they are measured on a combination of issues. But Hatoyama’s government could fall over just this issue – and Obama did little to help the new Prime Minister stack up some wins with the US and the international system before crushing him on Futenma.

Japan, despite all of its considerable strengths and what could have been exciting, visionary new leadership from Hatoyama and his Democratic Party colleagues, is still a vassal of the United States – whereas the United States appears more and more a vassal of Israel’s interest – and on China, we’ll just have to wait and see how history tilts.

Obama is really a weak leader and operates under a broken government with too many loopholes that have undermined the “checks and balances” in the American government.  Not only is he a weak leader of a broken government, he has also managed to destroy a progressive government for the sake of stacking up minor victories for his own administration.  In any event, I agree that Japan will only move towards a new era of progress if it is able to end its client state relationship with America.

China Watch : SAIC Motors’ lessons in own-brand building

Yang Jian, Automotive News China, 6th May, 2009

At this year’s Shanghai auto show a multitude of young carmakers – from the largest own-brand automaker Chery Automobile Co to the small player Anhui Jianghuai Automobile Co. – displayed their own-brand vehicles.

Many were copycats of international brands. This is a shame because, for the most part, the Chinese carmakers efforts to build brands will be in vain. For valuable lessons on how to build a respected brand, they would do well to look to their older brother in the domestic industry, Shanghai Automotive Industry Corp.

Lesson 1: For brand building, copying international brands is no good.

The first model SAIC built under the Roewe brand, the Roewe 750 mid-sized sedan, was developed on the platform of the Rover 75 it acquired from MG Rover in 2005.  Chinese consumers quickly realized SAIC’s car was, to a great extent, a copy of the original.

Recognized as such, the Roewe 750 has never truly won the heart of Chinese motorists. In the first quarter of this year, only 2,732 Roewe 750s were sold in China, according to Automotive Resources Asia, a unit of J.D. Power & Associates.

By contrast, SAIC’s second own-brand offering, the Roewe 550 compact car, was a completely new model. It was developed by the company’s R&D teams in Shanghai and England. With fine materials and a graceful styling, the car was launched at last year’s Beijing auto show to wide acclaim. Sales of the new model, which starts at 127,000 yuan ($18,621), are picking up. In the first quarter it shifted 11,774 units.

Lesson 2: Brand building is costly and therefore requires a focused approach.

Running two joint ventures with Volkswagen AG and General Motors Co., SAIC Motor is by far the most cash-rich automaker in China. Even so, it has long taken a cautious approach towards building the Roewe brand and to date the brand has only had two models: the Roewe 750 and the Roewe 550.

While domestic carmakers Chery and Geely used this year’s Shanghai auto show to display a total of more than 50 models under four sub-brands each, SAIC’s President, Hu Maoyuan, was talking about “integrating existing marketing and sales resources to boost brand recognition and sales volume.”

“From both a technology and financing point of view, SAIC stands the best chance of developing a premium brand,” says Duan Chengwu, Global Insight’s Asia Technical Research Analyst.

What chance do the other domestic Chinese automakers have of developing respected brands for themselves? Unless they adjust their existing product and branding strategy, I am truly pessimistic.