Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category

Karaoke Restrictions


China’s Ministry of Culture introduced the “national karaoke content management system” in recent years to determine every song’s play count.  The system grew out of the desire to collect payments for songs’ copyrights.  Zhengzhou, Henan served as one of the test cities for the device. Almost half of the original 110 karaoke centers in Zhengzhou also featured a “black box,” a free addition that also tracks content. Selecting a banned or inappropriate listing triggers the “black box” to immediately notify law officers. As of this month, 176 locations in Chongqing installed this management system. Henan plans to employ the instrument throughout the province by the end of next year.

Zhengzhou’s Deputy inspector of Provincial Department of Culture, Wang Tianhong, explained a “black list” to establish criteria for censorship is still lacking. Current decisions allegedly restrict sensitive topics surrounding Xinjiang and Taiwan as well as vulgar, lewd content. Employees at places with a “black box” are ordered to erase inappropriate songs after authorities arrive.

Deputy inspector Wang additionally mentioned that one network would eventually unite all national, provincial and municipal cultural administration departments to manage every karaoke system. He stressed that this comprehensive structure “is mainly aimed at karaoke places and other entertainment services, consumers will not be punished.”


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Growing Houses


Government-financed development projects in China regularly necessitate demolishing buildings. Owners of any bulldozed dwellings receive compensation for losing their homes. Farmers in rural areas have learned to take advantage of this system. They find it more profitable to just construct buildings on their fields, anticipating future projects. Cultivating housing units proves more economically advantageous than growing crops. Successfully deceiving officials results in a 700 to 1500 yuan relocation fee depending on the structure and number of rooms.

It’s a gamble. In early December, news of potential government projects spurred tireless efforts among Wuhan City residents. Buildings materialized in days. Vegetable fields vanished. Locals worked by car headlights during the night. On December 17, nearly one thousand government officers set out to fix this situation. Two days later, they wiped out just under 40,000 square meters of these new, illegally constructed “grow houses” in Wuhan City.

These compounds are not difficult to destroy. Mud typically secures their brick exteriors. Recycled waste serves as windows and doors to ensure the dwellings are uninhabitable.

Chinese Government crackdowns continue, but farmers are not likely to halt construction. Rural areas remain plagued with unemployment. “Growing” houses offers substantial economic benefits for minimal costs and labor. Expanding the strained Chinese job market may be the only effective solution.

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Internet usage in China is complicated. Asia already houses the largest Internet network in the world. Amidst exponential growth, access remains monitored. The Chinese Government maintains that restrictions over their country’s online content are necessary. If it grows unchecked, the Internet will hinder China’s efficiency and success.

(Here is an excellent account with diagrams of regional web usage)

Beyond the issues surrounding China’s Cyber Warefare, simply accessing the World Wide Web remains tough in certain regions. Xinjiang stands out as a radical example. Early last July, Uyghur riots in Ürümqi, Xinjiang led to a few hundred deaths, nine executions as well as a revamping of the region’s communication. Two years ago, I did not encounter any restrictions on e-mail or other messaging networks like Facebook during my travels throughout Xinjiang. Connections were scarce is more rural regions, but I could communicate easily once online. By mid-July 2009, these circumstances changed quite a bit. These days, a breakdown of available contact serves as a reminder for current Xinjiang residents to respect authority. While Internet connections allegedly remain largely unaffected, website availability continues to decreased. These two up-to-date accounts (Report #1, Report #2) depict current constraints.

Throughout China’s other regions, web searches on topics sensitive to authorities produce uninformative results and any degree of lewd content does not survive long. Although they admit corruption is a significant problem, preserving a positive government image is vital to their power. In the latter case, morals play a role. China’s Government recently offered monetary rewards for tips on location of servers running pornography websites. Response rates were astounding.

These examples are, however, extreme. There are very basic problems. A consistent frustration for some foreigners seems to be simply obtaining an Internet connection in their residence. Here is some advice for anyone struggling with this problem and wants to obtain Internet access in China outside of cafes and hotels.

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China’s Government took a step to simultaneously fight AIDS and liberalize their culture’s attitude towards homosexuality. On World AIDS day, they opened a gay bar.

This serves a few purposes. First and foremost, it is a means to conduct HIV/AIDS tests. Across the country, a Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation HIV program offers financial returns to those conducting the blood tests as well as participants. This first government-funded gay bar in Dali, Yunnan may receive similar support, and it will certainly distribute HIV prevention literature. Homosexual relations stand among the government’s alleged primary causes for the expansion of HIV

Blood collection is another necessary goal of this HIV prevention agenda. Critics deem the Gates program fundamentally flawed with narrow-minded structure. Testers are sometimes poorly trained to help an infected patient, and individuals can get paid for blood work multiple times. It remains difficult to spread HIV knowledge and promote testing. China increasingly aggressive approach to fighting HIV/AIDS remains hindered by a vast landscape. Qi Xiaoqiu, director of China’s Department of Disease Control, commented,

“Exact figures are difficult to arrive at because government at local levels are very reticent to report on actual cases, a situation compounded by individuals who are reluctant to come forward because of discrimination.”

Although China’s minister of health reports their HIV/AIDS population to be approximately 740,000, this number is commonly disputed. In 2007, China saw a 45% increase in HIV/AIDS and a 24% rise in syphilis cases. One day prior to World AIDS day, Chinese President Hu Jintao passionately stated, “China still faces a severe AIDS problem and we should mobilize the forces of all social sectors to tackle the problem persistently.”

Opening this gay bar also seems like an initial attempt to make right by a group who, until 2001, the Chinese Government deemed mentally ill. The obscene cost of dealing with a rapidly growing AIDS population likely drives the government’s desire for change, but this gay bar is an especially creative endeavor. Unfortunately, China’s culture need time to evolve. Gay men remain nervous to openly admit their sexual preferences. Intense media coverage of the bar only contributed the anxiety of Dali’s large homosexual population. Consequently, this Dali Government-financed bar has failed to attract customers.

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Chairman Obama


Barack Obama’s celebrity expanded into several new markets since his election. “ObaMao” or “Maobama” t-shirts hit stands in China last year, but disappeared prior to President Obama’s visit to Asia. With an interest in Chairman Mao combines and an appreciation for President Obama’s intentions, I felt compelled to buy one of these shirts. Initially, the designs seemed comical. They are satirical. Outside of national popularity, these two leaders share no similarities.

Perceptions of the “ObaMao” clothing line differ across countries. A variety of shirts (Shirt #1, Shirt #2, Shirt #3) are advertised on the Internet as “Buy Anti Obama Funny Obamao” shirts. In China, Chairman Mao survives as a positive icon. Comparing him with Obama thus appears complimentary.

The image to the right reads, “为人民服务,” meaning “Serving the people.” This famous Mao Zedong quote does not reference Communism, and actually aligns with the U.S. ideal of a President for the people.

Right before President Obama’s visit to China, Liu Mingjie, who designed and marketed these ObaMao images, was abruptly out of stock. Mr. Liu declined to comment. Nearby stores with president Obama action figures in a superman uniform continued business as usual.

Evaluations of Mao in the U.S. remain a bit more mixed. While President Obama visited China, these shirts were allegedly taken off the market only to not offend his administration. The U.S. market for this clothing is likely comprised of the uninformed population that likens President Obama’s initiatives to Communism. This association is not flattering. Unfortunately, to ensure that I do not appear supportive of this stance, my wish list for this holiday season will not include these shirts.

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China’s mounting power stood out during Barack Obama’s time in Asia. A weakening U.S. only compliments their supremacy. Owning $800 billion of U.S debt along their assessment of a fragile dollar certainly helped China’s confidence.

Dick Cheney saw President Obama’s low bow to Japan’s Emperor Akihito as a cause for the U.S.’s position, exclaiming, “There is no reason for an American president to bow to anyone. Our friends and allies don’t expect it, and our enemies see it as a sign of weakness.” Many Americans echoed this discontent. The Obama administration’s approach of diplomacy and compromise do not appear aggressive, yet a variety of economic circumstances are out of the President’s hands. Attempting to control a rising superpower from this declining standpoint is complicated.

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Earlier this week, President Obama delivered a speech and answered questions in Shanghai. Only one local television network broadcasted the event in China. The station’s website declined to stream the recording.

Portions of the dialogue on free speech and unrestricted Internet access likely compelled this censorship. The content of President Obama’s remarks was otherwise uncontroversial. Students at the town hall-style event were government-selected, and their questions pre-approved. One question in particular, however, appeared to challenge this control. After a few inquiries reminiscent of a gracious George W. Bush press conference, President Obama diverted to a duel-question “generated through the Web site of [the U.S.] embassy.” Chinese Ambassador John Huntsman, Jr. read, “In a country with 350 million Internet users and 60 million bloggers, do you know of the firewall?” continuing, “Should we be able to use Twitter freely?” The subsequent response expanded upon a section of Obama’s speech that cited “information freely accessible” as a “core principle.” His address affirmed a moderately firm stance on the U.S.’s position on human rights. President Obama’s answered this duel-question more boldly, advocating for open Internet usage and non-censorship. This was not to the Chinese Government’s liking.

CBS reported that several major Chinese websites instantly wrote headlines documenting the content of this assertion. Only an hour later, these stories disappeared. This is not the first censorship of President Obama’s remarks. Chinese translations of his inaugural address omitted Obama’s usage of the word “Communism” and a portion on dissent.

Although President Clinton’s popularity in China added to his media coverage, he delivered a speech in Beijing that emphasized human rights even more than President Obama’s speech. President Clinton’s address aired live and uncensored on CCTV. He gave this speech at a very different time.

The U.S. and China have a different relationship now. George W. Bush seemed to neglect this shift in power during his presidency, so Obama appears especially sensitive. To achieve his agenda on climate change and improve the U.S.’s economic situation, President Obama must act according to a reality that many Americans do not want to accept: the United States is not the world’s lone superpower anymore. The U.S. does not hold the upper hand it used to yield.

While it is easy to criticize the Chinese Government’s control over the media, it maintains their authority. This power remains unfortunately necessary to enact sweeping changes, like their evolving approach to environmental policy. Internet freedom is, in reality, not conducive to every type of societal and governmental order.

Transcript of President Obama’s address and question session in Shanghai


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