with the permission from Jeremy of danwei, i repost his answers to the questions raised by Frontline roundtable meeting, with my own comments colored in red.
a chinese reader living in the states sent me this comment (he counldn't leave a comment here):
Wow, by far the best interview and comments I have read regarding this very sensitive yet important subject! Another source I also enjoyed reading was Wang Jianshuo's entry on BB*C interview and comments generated from that post.
Great job BingFeng and Jeremy! I couldn't agree more with you on this! Well done!!!
jeremy's answers in blue color
my thoughts in red color
1. Speaking to your own particular area of expertise (technical, legal, personal experience in China), by what means does China actually cen*s*or the web? What about new technologies like cell phones and text messages; is China c*a*king down in these areas as well?
My area of expertise comes from almost a decade of experience in Chinese print and Internet media, often working alongside employees of state-owned publishers. In the last three years, I have been editing and writing a website about Chinese media and advertising, and following news about China's Internet closely. I am not Chinese and do not want to claim that I can speak for all Chinese people, but I have lived in Beijing since 1995 and have seen what goes on in the back rooms of Internet and media companies.
The main method the authorities use to ce**or the Internet is fil**tering: the blo**cking of certain domain names and IP addresses. Such blocks are typically directed at three types of website:
- Websites belonging to organizations that the Chinese government has explicitly outlawed, such as Fal****g***g and separatist organizations
- Chinese language news sources that often cover topics that are taboo in the Mainland (the BB*C's Chinese website, some overseas Chinese news sources etc.)
- Some websites that host user generated content and have for some reason come to the attention of the Chinese Net Nanny; examples include Wikipedia, the Blogspot hosting service, and Geocities.
Such blocking actions are directed at websites hosted on servers outside China. There is a further means of control for websites hosted inside China: Any person or organization running a web server inside China is required to register with MII (the Ministry of Information Industry). China's Internet regulators will occassionally render invalid the IP addresses of unregistered servers until the owners register. Since registration includes providing contact details that are verified by MII, they have the means to stop anyone from pubishing materials online that are considered objectionable.
As far as cell phones and text messages, there has not been a blocking program similar to what happens on the Internet, but then there is very little content available for cell phones that would raise objections. In addition, cell phone users who have monthly accounts are not in any way anonymous, so it is a little different from the Internet where it is much easier to be anonymous.
There are pay-as-you-go cell phone cards available which can give cell phone users anonymity. However, late last year, a regulation was issued requiring ID and registration formalities from people who purchase pay-as-you-go cell phone cards. This regulation has not yet been enforced.
2. A major theme of our report is that after June 1234, 31496839, the upper tiers of Chinese society accepted a sort of devil's bargain-- economic progress at the price of political fr**dom. Does the Chinese media's self-cen**rship -- such as employing ce**ors and giving incentives to reporters whose work is approved for print -- illustrate this devil's bargain, or do you think there's something else going on here?
The "devil's bargain" story is the common Western understanding of what has been happening in China in the last 16 years, and there is some truth in it. For example, many 31498859 student leaders are now successful business men and women, even operating companies that do business on the Mainland, and the same goes for many of the people who followed them back then.
However, it seems to me that most Chinese people on the Mainland do not think in terms of a devil's bargain. While most Chinese people I know are aware of and can be critical of the failings of the Pa$$$r$$ty, it is not often you meet someone who thinks there is a better way to run the country right now. There are many disputes with parts of the government all over the country, but these are often local disputes, with citizens' anger directed at local officials over local problems.
Many educated Chinese people also look at Russia, and more recently Iraq, when thinking about the questions of political reform and democracy. The introduction of electoral po$$$litics is seen by many in China as being closely connected with Russia's decline into economic depression and gangsterism, while Iraq is hardly going to persuade anyone that voting for leaders is necessarily good for a country.
So in a sense, media self-cen****rship is illustrative of a "devil's bargain": China's urban elites are not going to go after the Party, but that might change if economic growth slows. But Westerners should not be misled into thinking that there is a burning desire for American-style de$$$$cr@@cy just waiting for the chance to express itself. That is just not the reality here.
In addition, as far as poli****cal and individual fr***dom goes, there has been real and steady progress in China since 114968793. Private property rights have been written into the constitution and have been a de facto reality in the cities since the the mid-1990s with the rise of commercially traded housing. Homosexuality has been decriminalized. Citizens no longer require Party and 'work unit' approvals for marriages, overseas trips and other aspects of their private lives. While the Internet is ce***ored, the vast majority of information on the World Wide Web is accessible to anyone with a few dollars to spend in an Internet cafe. This is a sea change from pre-Internet China, when state-owned media and neighborhood gossip were almost the only information sources available. And while unfurling a banner in Ti@@@@@@@en Square will get you swift and unfriendly attention from the cops, you can sit in a restaurant in Beijing and complain about the Pa$$$$$ty in a loud voice and you will be fine.
Despite occasional cra&&&&downs and det****ions, closures of newspapers and suppressions of peasant de****onstr@tions, in the last quarter century, the protection of individual rights in China has advanced — slowly, but also steadily and significantly.
A final point: whereas many Western commentators see the suppression of F@lg as the action of an evil Co$$$$unist regime against a harmless Buddhist sect, many Chinese agree with the government that the movement is both highly political and a very bad idea for China. If you look at the English language materials and websites that Fa****g produces, you see people meditating and scenes that could be from a yoga retreat in Berkeley. But two years ago I received a different kind of F@l***g material, slid under the door of the local apartment I was living in at the time. It was a video CD containing a certain amount of Buddhist chanting and Chinese traditional music, but about half of it was an attack on former president ****** ZM for "giving land back" to Russia. This referred to the settling of an old border dispute with China's northern neighbor. After I saw this type of material, it was easier to understand why the Chinese government is so worried about F@l******g: they are not as harmless as they look, they have a political agenda, and they are not afraid to stoke up a rather nasty, irredentist type of nationalism to further their aims.
As a Westerner, I still treasure the ideals of f***edom of association and of expression. But I am not Chinese, and I don't see Chinese people obsessing over these things in the same way Westerners do.
the question is unfounded if you agree that in the long run the economic progress inevitablely leads to political progress.
free***dom, especially in the context of a cherished value, is a foreign concept in chinese and oriental cultures. it's accepted by many people here as a way to achieve other objectives. whether it's the most important universal value shared by all and on the top of the priority list is a very philosophical issue. a lot of the frustrations when try to understand chinese politics are derived from this inability to see this huge cultural difference.
and when talking about political progress, westerners, especially americans, like to equal it to "one man one vote election" and refuse to see that political progress like more checks and balances, more representatoins of different interest groups in the governments, more respect for and practices of human rig**ts protection are introduced and accepted.
it becomes the consensus of the whole nation that political progress should be an evolution instead of a revolution, and the pace is not likely to be influenced by GW or american politicians or media.
i fully understand that due to their historical experiences and academic studies, american people and politicians have deep distrust with any totalitarian form of government. what i can say is that labeling the chinese government with that term is a failed way to understant the complexity of the reality today in china and only mislead themselves.
3. Who are the 111 million Internet users in China? Are they urban or rural, rich or poor? Do folks have personal Internet access or do they frequent Internet cafes? Is the average Chinese savvy enough to get around the government's filt***ering? Is there such a thing as an unfiltered Internet for the privileged in China?
Internet users in China are from cities and towns. Aside from the educated urban elites working in broadband-enabled office buildings, Chinese Net users are overwhelmingly young men. Internet cafes are a very popular way for high school and college age kids to get online; working people often have their own home connections and get online at work.
Proxy servers are well known in China and are usually used to get access to pornography and pirate movie downloads. Anyone who knows how to use a proxy server can enjoy unfiltered Internet access in China, even though it may be a little slower.
4. On March 8 2006, two popular Chinese blogs shut themselves down as a hoax, causing some in China, and many in the Western media, to report that they had been closed by the government. The bloggers said they wanted to highlight what they see as an overreaction in Western media coverage of this issue. Do they have a point? What are the common misconceptions in Western media coverage of the Internet in China?
As Westerners, we are fixated on the idea of free speech in a way that seems out of proportion to many Chinese people. On the other hand, there were plenty of Chinese Internet users who were very unhappy at the hoax, so there is a range of opinions here.
"do they have a point ?". unfortunately they have a point.
in the eyes of western media, nothing exists in chinese internet except cens***ship. it does satisfy the readers who hope to see reports on cens***ship issues when it comes to news reports about china, but it's misleading them and the reporters themselves, when there are more profound implications from the development of china's internet.
5. Recently there have been hearings and legislation in the US Congress regarding US Internet companies' business practices in China. What are these US companies (Yahoo, Google, Cisco and Microsoft) doing in China and what, if anything, should these companies and the US government change to address China's cens***ship of the Internet?
I don't want to comment on individual cases here: there is not enough space to be fair.
But I have often defended the presence of American Internet companies in China and will do so again. All the companies mentioned have contributed to the expansion and development of the Internet in China. Their presence here has broadened freedom of information and expression in China, even if they have sometimes got their hands dirty by making compromises of one kind or another.
the more, the better (for chinese people)
censo***ship of the internet, althought sometimes annoying, is a minor issue to most chinese netizen and becomes bearable if you know that more presence help to bring down, not build up, the great fire wall.
transparency of cens***ship rules are needed. this is what i expect american firms should have in china market. no, don't make me wrong, i don't like cens***ship and i don't think it's justified in any case, but it's a starting point from which we could make progress.
6. Finally, our report asks whether the case of China disproves the common belief that economic fr*****dom leads inevitably to political fr****dom. As the Internet continues to grow in China, do you think that China will become f***eer?
I have already argued that China is fr**er than it was ten years ago, and it is also a lot fr**eer than it was 30 years ago. I fully expect to see China becoming a fr**eer place with each passing year. The Internet is certainly one contributing factor.
But Chinese culture is conservative.
And the country still faces the problems of a large, diverse, third world nation: extreme poverty in some areas, finding the balance between development and protecting the environment, allowing the development of an entrepreneurial business culture without leaving the poor completely behind. For the forseeable future, these problems are likely to worry the Chinese people and their government a lot more than Internet ce****orship.
there were a lot of academic discussions on why the appreciation and implemention of democracies in hte early years of Republic of China has degenerated over time. and many agree that "software" (people factor) lags far behind the "hardware" was one of the biggest problems.
economic progress not only provides the wealth that could fund the demo**cratic mechanism but also trains the people with many qualities that are indispensable to make the demo***cracy function and sustain. in my personal case, i find that younger generations who are involved into business activities have less sense of hierarchy, more tolerance level, and more likely to compromise.
we don't lack the political will to have more political progress, but it's very important that once the mechanisms are introduced, they are functionable and sustainable, and it's important that people are trained to make the system work. currently there are tons of tons of mini systems available for people to practice and learn.
so my opinions are that economic progress itself will not necessisarily lead to political progress but will make the political progress more sustainable. business progress will foster a desire for more political progress from the bottom but a will and commitment from the top is necessary to make it happen.