Archive for the ‘Reading between the lines’ Category

China Digital Times is showcasing two examples that the government’s efforts to tarnish Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo and silence his supporters have not been entirely successful. One, the cover of Southern Metropolis Daily,  is a symbol-laden illustration showing empty chairs, cranes and a man trying to halt the cranes’ progress. Click here for a shot of the page and an explanation of its symbolic meaning: http://chinadigitaltimes.net/2010/12/netizens-interpret-empty-chairs-on-the-cover-of-southern-metropolis-daily/

The other example consists of posts on a popular Chinese blogging site and on Twitter that all are titled, “The Lius I admire.” Each brief post appears to follow a formula that congratulates a “person with the surname Liu” for his or her fighting spirit and resistance to injustice.  You can see a description of this endeavor here: http://chinadigitaltimes.net/2010/12/the-lius-i-admire/


Read Full Post »

China Daily reports that the central government has ordered several departments to start alerting the public about unsafe food and to cooperate with each other in doing so. But its method, that of issuing regulations, does no more than nibble at the problem. Only last year did China pass a food safety law. It hasn’t been effective in protecting the public. The government needs a law with teeth enough to take a big bite out of bureaucratic and business resistance to transparency. The entire article reads as if regulations will solve the problems, which may be the angle ordered by propaganda authorities. But at the very end of the story, which censors typically fail to reach, comes a single paragraph from an anonymous source. Alert readers will recognize it as a prediction of government inaction despite its appearance in a story touting government in action. For a description of the former, see “A poisoned sense of duty” on the Columns page. A link to the article is below.

“Public to be given more food safety information,”


Read Full Post »

Two features about Chinese media that ran in the past couple of days deserve mention. One, which appeared in today’s China Daily, provides a look at the dangers facing Chinese reporters. “Journalists still face attacks, harassment” describes Chinese reporters suffering retaliation and intimidation from authorities and businesses ranging from beatings to possible arrest. The other feature, from the website for the China Media Project, describes a Sohu.com article that probes how groups of writers compose editorials under pseudonyms to express official viewpoints of Party officials on history and politics. Sohu’s page included an illustration imitating the unmistakable graphic style of posters from the Cultural Revolution, “when ideological rancor tore the country apart,” as the China Media Project noted. Authorities quickly “harmonized” the page by eliminating the suggestive illustration, it went on to say. China Daily and Sohu deserve credit for publishing articles that reveal the country’s hostile news environment and official manipulation. Links to both articles can be found below.



Read Full Post »

Top officials of the Chinese Communist Party just finished setting goals for their next Five-Year Plan. One of them, cautiously labeled “political reform,” appears to be a victory for those who have been pushing the Party to adopt at least some of the characteristics of democratic governance, such as transparency and accountability.

This is very big news and in typical Chinese fashion, their English-language news media downplay it and discuss it only in the vaguest terms. Quoting an official Party communique, China Daily reported that the Party will make ‘”vigorous yet steady’ efforts to promote political restructuring in (the) next five years.” There is no further discussion about what those efforts will be, who will make them, what will be restructured or how.

This vagueness indicates how far the Chinese have to go before implementing transparency. In a country where being direct and outspoken is dangerous, news media have no tradition of revealing more than officially approved information. On the contrary, as long as publicly endorsing free speech is enough to earn an 11-year prison sentence for subversion, editors and reporters have good reason to avoid risking use of the word “democracy.” Since the word is associated with Western countries, especially the U.S.A., its use is likely to arouse opposition from hardliners, who already condemn the idea as a form of cultural imperialism.

Here’s the link to the report about the official Party communique: http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/china/2010-10/18/content_11425729.htm

This one is from a Wall Street Journal blog about China, a good site to bookmark: http://blogs.wsj.com/chinarealtime/2010/10/15/chinas-communist-party-prepares-for-a-showdown/

Read Full Post »

Chinese news agency Xinhua reported today that a Foreign Ministry spokesman says the Nobel Peace Prize award to an imprisoned democracy advocate “shows no respect for the judicial system of China.” In fact, China has no judicial system that functions in any way that would be recognized by First World standards. It has the appearance of one without the substance. There are judges, lawyers, courts and police. But judges can refuse to take cases based on their own wishes to avoid rocking the boat. They often issue rulings according to the wishes of Party authorities. Lawyers brave enough to represent citizens against government wrongdoing risk house arrest, “disappearance,” labor re-education camp or even prison. Police often are deployed as storm troopers against people desparate enough to publicly protest for their rights. China also has a constitution that purports to guarantee freedom of speech and freedom of the press. But those who dare to exercise those rights face punishment ranging from loss of job to imprisonment. For a look at the Xinhua item, follow this link: http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/china/2010-10/12/content_11401571.htm

Read Full Post »