Yajiao’s Blog

Archive for March 2010

The Third Session of the Eleventh National People’s Congress (NPC) and the Third Session of the Eleventh Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) was end on 14 March in Beijing. The two sessions are the most important political events in China. This time, the Internet plays an outstanding role in both promoting democratic politics and reporting the latest news.

In the first place, the Internet has become a bridge for the high-level decision makers to know the opinions from grassroots. Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao talked online with public before the opening of Two Sessions. He had a two-hour online chat with netizens jointly hosted by the central government website and the Xinhua website. The discussed issues ranged from education, employment to housing. In addition, CPPCC members in Beijing opened the video camera and sat at a computer screen for video dialogue.

Apart from the central government, different provinces adapt to the Internet platform in the political process. For example, Anhui and Hunan provinces incorporated ‘the online public opinions’ into their provincial government work reports. Many deputies of the Two Sessions also set up their ‘Micro blog stalls’, which offers a ‘zero distance’ for netizens to ask questions. Moreover, millions of netizens also open micro-blog (it is similar as Twitter) to participate in the Two Sessions and discuss proposals. The major Chinese websites such as People’s Daily and Xinhua Net provided with BBS, blogs, online surveys and SMS to interact with netizens. Here are two links to the Two Sessions Section in Global Times and People’s Daily. Meanwhile, it is a way for grassroots to monitor the proposals raised by deputies. Actually, there are certain numbers of proposals which are regarded as meaningless, and criticised by netizens strictly. It is like that deputies attend meetings in Beijing, while netizens held discussions on micro-blog.

Obviously, more voices from different social groups could be heard by means of using e-mail, blog, and micro-blog. It offers a better channel to understand more views and wishes, and some conflicts in society. To some extent, the Internet improves and encourages political participation in China.

In addition, the Internet also changes the pattern that how journalists report the Two Sessions. Most Chinese websites set up a special section for the Two Sessions. Some launch the on live video report to deliver the latest news, and ask netizens to give feedbacks. With the wide application of the mobile newspapers and videos, mobile phones take a significant role to provide the political news. For instance, Xinhua Net opened its mobile newspaper with the theme of ‘Let us have Two Sessions on phone’. The CMMB hand-hold TV is a new platform to report news. Compared with traditional televisions, the CMMB televisions are easy to take, without territory limitations and do not need any wires. These advantages make CMMB as a unique distribute channel which provides audience with different experience. CCTV channels, local TV channels, and international radio stations all deliver their programmes to the CMMB TV.

On the one side, deputies for NPC&CPPCC need pay attention to online opinions, and journalists also collect latest information from the Internet to report. On the other side, it is still necessary for journalists to report politics in traditional approaches, such as focusing on investigation and write in-depth features, and reflect the livelihoods of people at the grassroots.

Recently, the most popular figure discussed by Chinese netizens is not a celebrity or political officials, but a vagrant. With the cult following of netizens, this vagrant drew attention from the media as well.

A photo of a homeless man taken by an amateur photographer when trying his new camera was posted on the Internet. Because of his good looks and sharp dress sense, Chinese netizens call him as Brother Sharp. A growing number of Internet users become his fans and keep tracking the latest news of the unidentified man.

According to the photo, he is wearing a rag-tag but well co-ordinated overcoat on top of a leather jacket. The match of his clothes even similar as the latest Dolce & Gabbana collection The expression showing in his eyes is described as ‘deep and penetrating’ by his fans. With a cigarette between his fingers, the confident position of his walking is like a model. He also wears women’s clothes sometimes, which has emphasised his status as a fashion icon. He was compared with popular Asian actors like Takeshi Kaneshiro or the Oscar-nominated Ken Watanabe. Several netizens have dubbed Brother Sharp as the “most handsome underdog of this century”.

He is one of the most talked about personalities in Chinese cyberspace today. Chinese netizens started the “human flesh search ”, and found that he is usually wandering in the streets of Ningbo, Zhejiang province. In the online posts, Internet users write about his cool attitude while asking for money from passersby on the streets. The news coverage of him is full of Chinese commercial websites and social networking websites. The discussion of Brother Sharp has even spread to other Asian countries like Korea and Japan, who say they find it hard to believe that such a handsome man could be homeless. The Independent in the UK also reported this unique vagrant.

Because of the popularity online, he also attracts the attention from the society. However, a worker at the Ningbo homeless center said his colleagues contacted Brother Sharp several times and tried to help him, but had been refused. Homeless people are vulnerable. Actually, Brother Sharp may by mentally disturbed, the person who first posted Brother Sharp’s photographs mentioned and asked netizens to stop trying to chase him. Some journalists tried to interview him, he was scared and could not speak fluently.

With the help of netizens and the attention of media, these homeless people receive more assistance from the public. Brother Sharp was sent to the mental hospital for treatment. His family that lost contact with him for over 10 years found him from the media report. Finally, today, with the accompany of journalists and some of his family members, Brother Sharp back to his hometown. According to the report, to welcome his back, his home village is like celebrating a festival.

Based on my experience and observation, I found that Chinese netizens are very interesting, kind-hearted and justice. They are playing an increasingly important role in shaping media coverage. Many social problems are firstly raised from the Internet, then reported by the journalists and become a public concern.

The issue of Google in China continues in the following months.

In February, The New York Times reported that the online attacks towards Google were from 2 China schools, but not from the Chinese government. The investigation said that the purpose of these attacks is stealing trade secrets and computer codes and capturing e-mail of Chinese human rights activists. One elite Chinese University called Shanghai Jiaotong University is involved. Its computer science program is one of the top institutions in China. The other one is a vocational computer school in Shandong Province. It is said this school was established with military support, but the school did not admit it.

In March, based on the recent report from Bloomberg, the US government suggested Google to take “China’s Internet censorship to the World Trade Organization (WTO) as an unfair barrier to trade”. However, the censorship in China applies to all Internet companies, and it is less of a trade issue that violate WTO rules.

However, Bloomberg also reported that Google China is recruiting new engineers, managers and sales staff. It seems that now Google China is returning to normal.

Since the early of 2010, Google threatened pullout of China, the debate about Google’s business, and Chinese Internet censorship from different perspectives has never stopped.

In January, according to Google, a representative said that because of the hacker attacks, the world’s largest search-engine company considered quit Chinese market. Meanwhile, Google will not censor its search results in China any more. This news firstly raised discussions and conjectures on the Internet among Chinese netizens.

Why Google leaves?

There are various reasons analysed by either netizens or professionals for Google’ decision. Apart from the cyber attack and censorship, some also suggested that Google has not dominated Chinese market. Though China owns the largest amount of Internet users in the world, Google’s revenue in China is relatively small. Compared with Google’s competitor Baidu takes up 63.9% of Chinese search market, Google only has 31.3% market share.

In addition, the pullout of Google reflects clash of cultures and values. The previous founding chief executive of Google China, Kai-Fu Lee, said that one of the weaknesses western Internet companies failed in China is they did not understand China and Chinese. In September, 2009, Kai-Fu Lee left Google for his own Chinese Internet investment company.

Moreover, some argues Google’s issue is not only about business, but also related with politics. Referred to Google’s unwillingness to submit to censorship, some people pointed out that Google came to China in 2006 when China had a much stricter regulation than it has now. The Obama administration ties closely with Google. The speech of Internet freedom made by Hillary Clinton also made the Google issue even more political.

Chinese Internet users are divided on the Google issue. On the one hand, some expressed their support for Google, about 30 Chinese students even sent bouquets to the company’s headquarters in Beijing. On the other hand, Chinese people and Chinese media argued that the business of Google should not be related with political issue. Clearly, Chinese people have called for a more open and free Internet, but now foreign company still need to operate under Chinese laws.

Chinese students put flowers at Google’s head office to say goodbye.

Employees from Google China published the photo of their office to “commemorate” Google.