The Voice of China

During the Cold War, the USA started media ventures such as Radio Free Europe and Voice of America to broadcast an American view of the world to countries behind the Iron Curtain.  Now still-communist China is doing the same thing,  Already China has a huge TV and radio presence in Third World countries.  And now the burgeoning superpower is broadcasting English-language programming here in America.

Cruise southeast out of Houston, past the NASA exits and toward the Gulf of Mexico, and you pick up something a little incongruous on the radio, amid country crooners, Rush Limbaugh, hip-hop and all the freewheeling clamor of the American airwaves.

“China Radio International,” a voice intones. “This is Beyond Beijing.”

Way, way beyond Beijing.

Sandwiched between a Spanish Christian network and a local sports station, broadcasting at 1540 on your AM dial, is KGBC of Galveston, wholly American-owned and -operated, but with content provided exclusively by a mammoth, state-owned broadcaster from the People’s Republic of China.

Call it KPRC. Or as the locals quip: Keep Galveston Broadcasting Chinese.

The little Texas station may be modest, but it is part of a multibillion-dollar effort by the Chinese government to expand its influence around the world. As China rises as a global force, its leaders think that their country is routinely mischaracterized and misunderstood and that China needs to spread its point of view on everything from economics to art to counter the influence of the West.

Beijing’s new response is typically massive and ambitious: a $6.6 billion global strategy to create media giants that will challenge agenda-setting Western behemoths such as Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp., the BBC and CNN.

At a time when the Western media are contracting, China is pushing its government-run news services to expand from America to Zimbabwe. The Chinese are creating TV networks, pouring millions into English-language newspapers, leasing radio stations on all continents and broadcasting TV news to a worldwide audience in six languages.

The stations don’t broadcast outright propaganda, but rather programming with a Chinese focus and flavor, tailored for local audiences. In Galveston, the format mixes China-centric international news, talk shows about the status of China’s women and a healthy dose of gangsta rap — all in English.

Behind the push is a Communist Party hierarchy that has seized upon the idea of “soft power” as China’s new Holy Grail in its search for superpower status. President Hu Jintao has publicly stressed the strategy. And in 2008, Li Changchun, the party leader responsible for propaganda, summed up China’s rationale: “In the modern age, whichever nation’s communication methods are most advanced, whichever nation’s communication capacity is strongest . . . has the most power to influence the world.”

via From China’s mouth to Texans’ ears: Outreach includes small station in Galveston.

China’s decree to journalists & bloggers

We have posted about the conflict between still-communist China and Google.  The “Washington Post” has obtained a translation of the instructions from the Chinese government to its web journalists and bloggers, explaining what they will not be allowed to talk about. From China’s instructions on reporting on Google:

All chief editors and managers:

Google has officially announced its withdrawal from the China market. This is a high-impact incident. It has triggered netizens' discussions which are not limited to a commercial level. Therefore please pay strict attention to the following content requirements during this period:

A. News section:

1. Only use Central Government main media (website) content; do not use content from other sources.

2. Reposting must not change title.

3. News recommendations should refer to Central government main media websites.

4. Do not produce relevant topic pages; do not set discussion sessions; do not conduct related investigative reporting.

5. Online programs with experts and scholars on this matter must apply for permission ahead of time. This type of self-initiated program production is strictly forbidden.

6. Carefully manage the commentary posts under news items.

B. Forums, blogs and other interactive media sections:

1. It is not permitted to hold discussions or investigations on the Google topic.

2. Interactive sections do not recommend this topic, do not place this topic and related comments at the top.

3. All websites please clean up text, images and sound and videos which attack the Party, State, government agencies, Internet policies with the excuse of this event.

4. All websites please clean up text, images and sound and videos which support Google, dedicate flowers to Google, ask Google to stay, cheer for Google and others have a different tune from government policy.

5. On topics related to Google, carefully manage the information in exchanges, comments and other interactive sessions.

6. Chief managers in different regions please assign specific manpower to monitor Google-related information; if there is information about mass incidents, please report it in a timely manner.

We ask the Monitoring and Control Group to immediately follow up monitoring and control actions along the above directions; once any problems are discovered, please communicate with respected sessions in a timely manner.

This is what it means to live in a totalitarian country, one that recognizes none of the rights that we take for granted here.

Google stops censoring itself for China

Google may have stopped being evil, deciding to stop kow-towing to  still-Communist China’s demands that it block searches on forbidden topics, such as “Tiananminh Square” and “Tibet.”  Why?  Google is responding to what appears to be a Chinese attempt to hack into its operations and steal its technology:

Google Inc., following through on a pledge to stop censoring search results in China, began serving mainland Chinese users via its unfiltered Hong Kong site, a move that could prompt the government to block the service.

The company began redirecting traffic from its Google.cn site to Hong Kong, a part of the country that isn’t subject to censorship laws. The move, which escalates a two- month dispute with the government over censorship, was “totally wrong,” the official Xinhua news agency said.

By relying on Hong Kong, Google is trying to find a way to fight censorship laws while still keeping a presence in mainland China. The approach may not work for long because the government will probably block the site, called Google.com.hk, just as it has before with the main Google.com page, said Ben Schachter, an analyst at Broadpoint AmTech Inc. in San Francisco.

“It’s very likely that Google.com.hk will be blocked at least as aggressively as Google.com was and, more likely, probably more aggressively,” he said.

The company challenged the government of the world’s most populous country in January by threatening to allow all search results to be shown on its China Web site, including references to Tibet and the Tiananmen Square crackdown. Google has about 600 employees in the country. Google.cn included the search engine, Google News and Google Images.

“The Chinese government has been crystal clear throughout our discussions that self-censorship is a non-negotiable legal requirement,” Google said in a blog post. “We believe this new approach of providing uncensored search in simplified Chinese from Google.com.hk is a sensible solution to the challenges we’ve faced — it’s entirely legal and will meaningfully increase access to information for people in China.”

Google fell $2.50 to $557.50 in Nasdaq Stock Market trading. The shares have declined 10 percent this year. . . .

Google, the world’s top search engine, threatened to stop censoring content after reporting that its computers had been hacked from within China. The company said its systems were targeted by “highly sophisticated” attacks aimed at obtaining proprietary information, as well as personal data belonging to human-rights activists who use the company’s Gmail e-mail service.

The Chinese government denied that it was involved in the attacks, Xinhua reported.

At least 20 other international companies in technology, finance and chemicals were similarly targeted, Google said at the time.

“We also made clear that these attacks and the surveillance they uncovered — combined with attempts over the last year to further limit free speech on the Web in China including the persistent blocking of Web sites such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Google Docs and Blogger — had led us to conclude that we could no longer continue censoring our results on google.cn,” Google said on the blog.

via Google Stops Censorship, Making Block by China Likely (Update1) – BusinessWeek.

China throws its weight around

Still-communist China, which has emerged from the global financial meltdown stronger than ever as the USA and other countries depend on its money, is asserting itself and feeling its power:

China’s government has embraced an increasingly anti-Western tone in recent months and is adopting policies across a wide spectrum that reflect a heightened fear of foreign influence.

The shift has accelerated as China has emerged stronger from the global financial meltdown, with a world-beating economic expansion rate and a growing nationalist movement. China has long felt bullied by the West, and its stronger stance is challenging the long-held assumption shared among Western and Chinese businessmen, academics and government officials that a more powerful and prosperous China would be more positively inclined toward Western values and systems.

China’s shift is occurring throughout society, and is reflected in government policy and in a new attitude toward the West. Over the past year, the government of President Hu Jintao has rolled back market-oriented reforms by encouraging China’s state-owned enterprises to forcibly buy private firms. In the past weeks, China announced plans to force Western companies to turn over their most sensitive technology and patents to Chinese competitors in exchange for access to the country’s markets.

Internally, it has carried out more arrests and indictments for endangering state security over the past two years than in the five-year period from 2003 to 2007, according to a report released Friday by the Dui Hua Foundation, a San Francisco-based human rights organization.

China has also reined in the news media and attempted to control the Internet more vigorously than in the past. This month, it announced regulations designed to make it harder for China’s fledgling community of nongovernmental organizations to get financial support from overseas. In foreign affairs, after years of playing down differences, it has reverted to a tone not heard in more than a decade, condemning recent U.S. decisions to sell weapons to Taiwan and to have President Obama meet the exiled Tibetan leader, the Dalai Lama.

“This is a fundamental shift, and I’ve been here a long time,” said James L. McGregor, a senior counselor with the public affairs firm Apco China. “It’s a change in national attitude.”

via Newly powerful China defies Western nations with remarks, policies – washingtonpost.com.

Gendercide

Mollie Hemingway writes about media coverage of sex-selective abortion, particularly in China and India where families want sons and so get an abortion if their in utero baby is a girl.  This even has acquired a name, something to add to our vocabulary:  gendercide.

Mollie (I can call her that because I know her) cites a story in The Christian Science Monitor about the consequences of wiping out so many females in the population.  It features a farmer in India lamenting that he can’t find a wife to marry.  Mollie tells about how he is “lamenting that he no longer cares about caste, religion or looks — he just wants a wife to give him a son. Funny, isn’t it. It’s hard to find a wife to give you a son when the people of your country are killing so many of the unborn female children because they’re not sons.”

via The war on girls » GetReligion.

Totalitarian envy

Steven Mufson and John Pomfret have an article in the Washington Post about how China seems to be doing everything right and leaving the USA behind:

With the American economy struggling and the political system in gridlock, there is one thing everyone in Washington seems to agree on: The Chinese do it better.

Cyberspace? China has an army of hackers ready to read your most intimate e-mails and spy on corporations and super-secret government agencies. (Just ask Google.) Education? China is churning out engineers almost as fast as it's making toys. Military prowess? China is catching up, so quickly that it is about to deploy an anti-ship ballistic missile that could make life on a U.S. aircraft carrier a perilous affair. The economy? China has gone from cheap-clothing-maker to America’s banker. Governance? At least they can build a high-speed train. And energy? Look out, Red China is going green!

This new Red Scare says a lot about America’s collective psyche at this moment. A nation with a per capita income of $6,546 — ensconced above Ukraine and below Namibia, according to the International Monetary Fund — is putting the fear of God, or Mao, into our hearts.

Here’s our commander in chief, President Obama, talking about clean energy this month: “Countries like China are moving even faster. . . . I’m not going to settle for a situation where the United States comes in second place or third place or fourth place in what will be the most important economic engine in the future.”

And the nation’s pundit in chief, Thomas Friedman of the New York Times, even sees some virtue in the Chinese Communist Party’s monopoly on political power: “One-party autocracy certainly has its drawbacks. But when it is led by a reasonably enlightened group of people, as China is today, it can also have great advantages.”

via There’s a new Red Scare. But is China really so scary? – washingtonpost.com.

The article goes on to point out China’s many problems, concluding that China is not the threat or the model that many Americans assume.  What haunts me, though, is Thomas Friedman’s belief that autocracy has advantages if the leaders are “enlightened.”  (Also his belief that the Chinese communists are “reasonably enlightened.”)  That mindset, along with the envy and admiration for the Chinese version of communism (market reforms and economic progress under state control of the society), will, if it spreads, mark the end of the American experiment. (This ties to the post below.)


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