Archive for March 22nd, 2010

Monday, March 22, 2010

CRI: Google in the Mirror of Colonial History

China Radio International (CRI) intensifies its coverage of GOOGLE’S CHINA THREAT.  “If Google wants to leave, just do it, and I will turn to Baidu. For sure we can survive without Google,” the station quotes an anonymous comment from Shandong Province on the news portal Xinmin.cn. And Chinese blogger Ding Wenqiang is quoted as saying that it’s like breaking up with boyfriends or girlfriends. People will find new ones soon. Website operators on the other hand worry about the uncertainty concerning services like AdSense. CRI dedicates a theme page particularly to Google’s withdrawal, under the title WITHDRAW – A LOSS FOR GOOGLE. Another story describes Google’s legal issues with intellectual property owners and authorities in European countries as a showcase as to how the company is doing evil in every place.

But it is apparently on the airwaves where CRI pulled out all the stops, as Le Figaro‘s China blog quotes the station:

During 100 years of colonialism and semi-colonialism, there has only been a single similar study case. That was Britain’s East Indian Company which wanted to control India’s sovereignty.”

On its website, CRI’s French service quotes advice contrary to the applied historical science.

Chinese Experts: It’s better not to politicize the Google affair (Des experts chinois : mieux vaut ne pas politiser l’affaire Google).

It’s hard to deny that Chinese publications are quoting from a variety of sources.

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Related
Hermit: Google is a Political Scam, March 21, 2010
BJRB: Hegemonists should Harbor no Illusions, Febr 6, 2010
Google: Bravo, tu as Gagné, January 16, 2010

Monday, March 22, 2010

Let’s have a Spat, Across the Firewall

protest against biased German media

Hurt feelings, Munich, March 29, 2008: Chinese people working and studying in southern Germany accuse German media of "muzzling their voice"

When I started posting on this blog, it seemed to be firmly on this side of the Chinese firewall. Maybe blogging was my reaction to criticism of Chinese students and residents in Germany of Germany’s media. Or to the behavior of some Chinese patriotic crackpots in my hometown who molested a small shop in our central railway station for featuring an outdated but nice and colorful poster with monks in a rollercoaster in its shop window.  For sure, I wanted to review my own attitude towards China, a country I had stayed in for many years. And by blogging, I wanted to take part in discussions with other foreigners about their experience and views. My memories were coming back, and it seemed that the Olympic Games in Beijing and the run-up to them were becoming a showcase, in whatever way. Something to “cover” from afar, in a personal, but public diary.

Besides, I liked the tagging and categorizing functions on WordPress. To have a big cupboard with all kinds of files, accessible from anywhere, looked like a great idea.

But for a while, the blogging platform was uncensored in China. And even after the Chinese firewall kicked in again, there were sometimes readers directly from there (without tunelling or other anti-censorship software), and after a while, there were even comments from China. Given that mylaowai.com was also an inspiration for me to start this blog, I expected some clashes.*) But to date, I haven’t had to remove or edit anyone’s comment. The dialog, even across the firewall, has often been checkered, but always civil. Maybe it is because it’s habitual in China to interact this way, when communicating with relative strangers.

The public anger that followed the – sometimes messy – Olympic Torch ralleye through Europe probably surprised many foreigners who hadn’t been to China, or who had never stayed for a longer period. To anyone else, it can’t have been a big surprise. I remember some exchanges with Chinese friends – not with colleagues – after NATO had bombed the Chinese embassy in Belgrade. It led to fairly long and sometimes angry discussions. It was a new experience for me, and for the Chinese, and they found a politically correct way to integrate it into the established protocol:  Zhu Rongji had said that bianlun (debate) between Chinese people and foreigners was very normal, so let’s have a spat.

My views on China come across as opinonated. I was told more than once, right into my face, that I was arrogant. I agreed. “I’m German. It’s one of our national characteristics. It isn’t personal.”

I could have said that arrogance was one of my weaknesses. But then, you need to live up to your reputation.

Reading online these days how many people, countries, and organizations are dubbed arrogant by the usual Chinese suspects, I’m no longer sure that arrogance should count as a weakness anyway. And if it is, maybe it’s no particular national characteristic after all.

Whenever people, arrogant or not, address each other as equals, offense becomes unlikely – especially on the internet. There is no hierarchy anyway, as there would be in real life. You take your personal traits with you when going online, but you are nobody’s boss and nobody’s subordinate. It is easier to become offensive if you feel like it when communicating online, but frequently, it is also easier to draw it mild than in real life.

Civility and science go hand in hand. So do civility and popular science (or information, more modestly speaking) – the more one sticks to the issues, the more one can learn, and share.

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*) I’m not fundamentally against throwing some mud – it can be both entertaining and revealing. But as a rule, it makes factual arguments more difficult, hence my commenting rules. I prefer it this way from this side of the firewall. I’d probably choose a more juicy approach from the other side, in a different situation.

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