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By Yaxue Cao, April 17, 2016
This story has been updated.
On Thursday, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey announced the new managing director of Twitter for the Greater China region. By Saturday the news had excited a fierce reaction among Twitter users in China.
It’s well known that Twitter, YouTube, Google and other major social media networks are banned in mainland China. While there aren’t many users of Twitter in the mainland (one estimate has it that there are roughly 10,000 active users), those who do use it are among the most ardent believers in internet freedom, and have a special love for Twitter. A large number are IT experts who migrated from Fanfou (a Chinese social media site) in 2009 and became almost religious users of Twitter; another large group are political dissidents. The former group can’t stand being stifled by the Great Firewall’s internet strictures, while the latter uses Twitter as a space where they can communicate to one another freely even as China continues to ratchet up internet controls. Twitter has thus become an enclave for a group of mainland Chinese users and a sanctuary of freedom of speech online. Over the last couple of years, Chinese Communist Party mouthpiece People’s Daily and Xinhua News Agency have also opened Twitter accounts, spreading Party propaganda to the world, apparently with no sense of shame that China’s government prevents its own citizens from using those social networks. And it should surprise no one that on Twitter they’re often the butt of jokes.
It’s only natural that Chinese Twitter users were highly curious about Twitter’s new managing director for Greater China—and they were repelled instantly. According to Baike, China’s equivalent of Wikipedia controlled by Baidu, Kathy Chen (陈葵) graduated with a degree in computer science from Beijing Jiaotong University in 1987. She immediately joined the People’s Liberation Army’s Second Artillery—China’s strategic missile force—and became an engineer in its No. 1 Research Academy. There, according to another article, she worked “as a programmer on the top-secret missile protocol design.” After seven years in the Second Artillery, she returned to civilian life and in August of 1994 became head of sales at Digital Equipment Corporation in China. DEC is a Massachusetts-based specialty computer company founded in 1957, and one of the earliest of America’s computer firms. From June 1995 to May 1997 she was Compaq’s chief sales representative in Beijing, and from May 1997 to December 1999 was the China regional sales manager for 3Com.
For the next four years, until 2004, Chen was the CEO of a newly-founded software company called CA-Jinchen, which primarily supplies anti-virus software. The firm is a joint venture between Computer Associates International (now known as CA Technologies) and China’s Ministry of Public Security, the first US-China software joint venture. Leveraging the resources of China’s public security apparatus, CA-Jinchen’s products are used in finance, government, the military, enterprises, telecommunications, education, the energy sector, and many key network systems. Reviewing CA-Jinchen’s 10-year history in 2008, Chen’s successor said: “China Jinchen Security Technology Co., Ltd. joined with the second-largest global software firm Computer Associations in a strategic partnership, promoting anti-virus technology globally and bringing ‘Preemptible Kernel’ technology into China.” She also remarked that: “Public security, the military, and the government are the troika behind Jinchen.” In 2010, CA’s 80% holding in CA-Jinchen was bought out by two Chinese investment firms (the transaction might not be as willing on the part of CA as the Chinese media portrayed it to be), and Jinchen became a corporation solely-owned by China. “Research and development is focused on preventing information leaks, designing anti-spy and code-breaking software. The user base will remain the traditional market: large domestic enterprises, government, public security, and will include a renewed focus on our roots in the military-industrial sector.”
Are there any problems here? To begin with, Chen is without a doubt a Chinese Communist Party member, based on a common sense understanding of China. She has been through the most strict and exacting process of political examination, and has been found by the Party to be reliable—all this is certain. My sense is that Kathy Chen’s rapid shift from extremely secret and politically sensitive missile protocol design work, straight to an American software company, is very unusual: in China, even a regular member of the armed forces dealing with secret information isn’t allowed to make overseas visits as they wish, either while in the army or soon after leaving (I have some anecdotal evidence here and here). They may apply, but I understand that it’s difficult to gain approval. I think it’s a fair assertion that Kathy Chen’s transition from a programmer of top-secret missile protocol to DEC sales could only have happened with the approval of a Chinese government agency. And then there are the four years with CA-Jinchen, which raises questions about the depth of Chen’s involvement in China’s public security sector.
When she was the CEO of CA-Jinchen, Chen once used the term “3S” to describe the scope of the company’s work: “Security Solution” provides the user with a complete security program, including anti-virus, firewall, intrusion detection, defense, and weakness detection mechanisms, among others, for the host machine, internet traffic, and the internet peripheries; “Security Application” provides on-demand security programs for government, telecommunications, finance, energy, and enterprise firms; and “Security Service” enquires as to the needs of the client and provides a complete, customized security service, from spec to roll-out, as well as ongoing consultation.
The main products of CA-Jinchen included anti-virus, firewall, invasion test, email filtering, mainframe protection, and etc. Describing a product called “The First Fortress Under the Heaven (天下第一关) in a 2004 interview, she said it could kill virus, block spam, and “filter Falun Gong content, politically sensitive information, or other harmful information.” CA-Jinchen also provided products for university campus surveillance on online browsing activities and other “illegal information and emails (such as Falun Gong).”
In the same interview, she also acknowledged that CA-Jinchen was the host of China’s national computer virus collecting and sampling center under the aegis of the Ministry of Public Security.
In May, 2004, Chen Kui was awarded the China Information Security Special Contribution Award (中国信息安全保障突出贡献奖) by a consortium of state agencies overseeing China’s internet security.
Following CA-Jinchen, Chen served in a high-level capacity at Microsoft, Cisco and then Microsoft again. As Cisco’s general manager of the Eastern Region, her job “included market development, and building and developing relationship with government agencies, research and educational institutions, and enterprises. In particular, [she] dedicated to maintain good relationship with government departments and their direct affiliations, engaging in broad strategic cooperation on macro level.” Cisco has long been criticized for selling advanced internet surveillance and control software to China, having allegedly helped the Party build its Firewall and Golden Shield to target dissidents, according to two legal complaints (both dismissed, one still under appeal).
During the two years at Microsoft before she takes up the Twitter position, she was responsible, among other things, “for key initiatives for Microsoft Azure in China,” according to her LinkedIn page.
Tech media outside China reported the appointment briefly and matter-of-factly. Twitter said in a statement, “As a global platform, we are already engaged with advertisers, content providers and influencers across greater China to help them reach audiences around the world. Going forward, we will look to Kathy’s leadership to help us identify ways in which Twitter’s platform and technology assets can be utilized to create further value for enterprises, creators, influencers, partners and developers in mainland China, Hong Kong and Taiwan.”
The appointment of Kathy Chen was also widely reported in mainland China, even though Twitter is banned. Netease Tech reported that it learned from Twitter insiders that Kathy Chen has “three clear goals” as the Managing Director of Greater China: “the first is to tell the China story, introducing to the world the best of Chinese culture, tradition, history and tourism and making China better known to the world utilizing the Twitter platform; the second is to help large and medium-sized Chinese companies tell the story of their brands, building their names and marketing overseas; the third is to communicate and exchange in the areas of technology and advertisement with rapidly growing Chinese internet companies and mobile internet companies.”
All this may sound innocuous to untrained ears, but it’s alarming to mainland Chinese Twitter users and seasoned China watchers: In February, Chinese Communist Party leader Xi Jinping warned mouthpiece media CCTV and Xinhua that they must do a good job of “telling the China story.” CCTV responded with the notorious slogan: “The Party’s media bears the surname of the Party!” Getting Chinese companies to advertise on Twitter is obviously a revenue stream, but what does it mean to “communicate and exchange with Chinese internet companies and mobile internet companies in technology and advertisements?” It sounds unnerving to Chinese Twitter users.
While direct Twitter censorship is unlikely, the Chinese Twitter users are concerned that the hiring of Chen Kui could be the beginning of Twitter’s cooperation (it does not have to be overt) with the Public Security apparatus and mobile companies in China that will make use of Twitter more difficult for independent users, but at the same time, open up Twitter to government-owned accounts, to government-hired propaganda workers known as fifty-centers, and dubious sales accounts, thus changing – or trashing – the Chinese language environment on Twitter. After all such change has occurred already on domestic microblogs over the last couple of years.
The Chinese govt has long been weary of Twitter as a fertile ground for anti-CCP sentiments and a place where dissidents gather. The Chinese government’s fear of a color revolution and Twitter’s role in recent social changes in other countries are well known.
Until the day of her appointment, the new Managing Director of the Greater China region was not a Twitter user. In a video clip, she greeted Twitter users with the equally new @TwitterGCN account. It’s clear that she has little understanding of the Twitter ecology. Of her total 15 tweets, the 6th encouraged @CCTVNews and Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey to “work together to tell the great China story to the world!” The 10th thanked @XHNews with: “look forward to closer partnership in the future!”
My friend @Yaqiu was appalled. “Twitter working with CCTV to tell the story of China? I can’t believe she said this. I’ve taken a screen grab.”
Another user pointed out, “Greater China = PRC, HK, Taiwan – people in TW/HK are NOT interested in CCP’s ‘great story’.” Indeed, China story means different things to different audiences.
Chinese tweeps—though not just Chinese tweeps—sneered out of disappointment and concern. I share their disgust, but I’m also deeply saddened, because just recently these same tweeps sang the tenderest tribute to Twitter on its 10th birthday. I had been encountering these tweeps everyday on Twitter, but hadn’t until that point known that they were so smart, witty, genuine and free.
One tweep was brutal. “Twitter has between 300 and 400 million users around the world. Nobody cares about the 10,0000 or 20,000 mainland Chinese users—do whatever you want to do and go wherever you want to go.” But it turns out he was deeply troubled as well.
Yaxue Cao is the editor of this website. Follow her on Twitter @YaxueCao.
A Month or so in the House of Twitter, by Yaxue Cao, January 23, 2012.
By Hu Ping, published: January 24, 2016
The “1992 consensus,” the outcome of a meeting between representatives of the Nationalist Party (KMT) and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), refers to the putative agreement that there is only “one China,” but that each side is able to interpret the meaning of that one China differently. For the KMT, this means that the Republic of China represents the only “one China,” whereas for the CCP, it means that the People’s Republic of China is the sole representative of the “one China.” The status of the agreement, or even its existence, has been controversial. — The Editors.
In May 2004 in the overseas Chinese-language magazine “Beijing Spring”(《北京之春》) I published an essay titled “Looking at Taiwan’s plight from Taiwan’s perspective,” in which I made the following comment:
By the same principle, the so-called 1992 Consensus—that is, “one China,” each with their respective interpretations—is also not helpful for Taiwan. This is because Taiwan’s “one China” interpretation can only have the effect of Taiwan talking to itself, and shutting itself off to the world. The international community won’t accept its interpretation of one China. Moreover, to the extent that Taiwan doesn’t want to isolate itself from the international community, and wants to actively participate in international organizations and activities, it must tacitly acknowledge that the People’s Republic of China, and not the Republic of China, occupies the space of China in international events. Thus, it has no choice but to de facto (in global for a) abandon its own version of the “one China.”
Perhaps at the beginning Taiwan wasn’t clear on what the CCP’s own “one China” meant when it agreed to the consensus. Taiwan may have thought that it simply means that each side does not directly acknowledge the other, but not that each can deliberately undermine, suppress, and attack the other in the presence of third parties and in international fora. (In the overseas Chinese community, this was called the “twin problem,” where each sibling says they’re the real one, and the other is fake. When community activities were organized around the world, the organizers were never clear which was the real and which the fake China, and they didn’t want to get dragged into the dispute. So they simply invited them both. Both sides attend, acknowledge that the other has attended, but refrain from going and pressuring the host to eject the other party.)
But who knew that the CCP’s version of the one China policy is that the CCP, on every possible occasion, does all it can to reject, suppress, and ruthlessly eliminate Taiwan’s presence. Taiwan obviously cannot accept this.
This is the problem right here. If the mainland’s understanding of the 1992 consensus is that it not only doesn’t recognize Taiwan, but also in international fora deliberately tries to suppress and negate Taiwan, then of course Taiwan won’t accept it. Who would accept a so-called “consensus” in which they are agreeing to being willfully negated and attacked? The pan-Green coalition couldn’t accept it, and the pan-Blue coalition also couldn’t accept it.
In March of 2006, when then-chairman of the KMT, Ma Ying-jeou, visited the United States, he spoke on the question of Taiwanese independence. Taiwan needs to gain more recognition in international diplomacy, he said, but if the CCP doesn’t allow even this, it will force Taiwanese people to the other side—and not even those originally concerned with Taiwanese independence. “Even people like us will oppose it. It’s got nothing to do with independence or not—but you won’t even give us a bit of breathing space!”
So, given that Taiwanese can’t accept a consensus which marginalizes and suppresses them, this is why the two sides cannot have a consensus. This is why the 1992 consensus just cannot exist.
If the 1992 consensus truly does exist, then it could only be on the basis of mutual respect and equality between the two sides. In this case, while each side would not directly recognize the other, they would not try to suppress and marginalize the other in the international community. Taiwan naturally sees it this way, but the question is whether the mainland agrees. The problem isn’t with Taiwan, but with the mainland.
Rather than asking Tsai Ing-wen whether she recognizes the 1992 consensus, we are better off first asking Xi Jinping just what he believes the 1992 consensus means. If Xi Jinping’s understanding of the 1992 consensus includes not marginalizing and suppressing Taiwan in the international community, then I think Tsai Ing-wen would also accept that consensus; if Xi Jinping’s understanding is that the 1992 consensus means that the mainland can marginalize and suppress Taiwan in the international community, then I think we’ve no need to ask Tsai Ing-wen in the first place.
Hu Ping (胡平) had been for years the chief editor of Beijing Spring, a long-running New York-based Chinese democracy magazine, until his retirement in Mr. Hu has been one of the best known Chinese liberal thinkers and commentators since early 1980s, and his essay On Freedom of Expression influenced many intellectuals and students in China in the 80s when he was a graduate student of philosophy at Peking University.
Now You Know the Terror, by Martin Oei, January 17, 2016.
Chiang Ching-kuo and the Democratization of Taiwan, by Chang Tieh Chi, June 3, 2013.
Also by Hu Ping:
How the Tiananmen Massacre Changed China, and the World, June 2, 2015
中文原文《與其問蔡英文，不如問習近平－九二共識之我見》，translated by China Change.
By Martin Oei, published: January 17, 2016
On January 15 a video was published online showing Chou Tzu-yu (周子瑜), a 16-year-old member of the K-pop girl group Twice, apologizing for holding a Republic of China flag in a photo shoot several months ago. The video was produced and published by the group’s South Korean management company JYP Entertainment. “There is only one China,” she says in the tape. “The two sides of the strait are one, and I have always felt proud to be Chinese.” She then apologizes for holding the flag. The video, instigated by pro-Beijing Internet users, at the tip-off of pro-Beijing Taiwanese singer Huang An (黄安), infuriated Taiwanese. People have found it difficult to watch, but we urge you to forge beyond the first 10 seconds and go all the way to the end. Try some of her soft, halting lines: “I have always felt proud of being a Chinese… I’m guilt-stricken for having hurting people’s feelings on both sides of the strait… Once again, once again, I apologize to all of you.” Try that slow and deep bow. With that, in less than a minute, you will have an education in the terror of communist rule lived and internalized by all Chinese that no college course could provide. – The Editor
All it took was for Chou Tzu-yu, a Taiwanese pop singer, to hold in her hand a Republic of China flag. For this, a has-been singer, long resident in China, decided to make an example of her, falsely accusing her of stirring up Taiwanese independence. Remarkably, she was then forced by her South Korean management firm to record an apology video: a mere 16-year-old Taiwanese girl forced to identify herself as a Chinese and admit that her holding the Republic of China flag was wrong. The sequence of events evoked public ire in Taiwan and Hong Kong, with the widespread sentiment that China’s bullying is simply insufferable.
The manner in which Chou, wearing black, face pale, read out her statement of apology, not only showed that she was forced to apologize, but also recalled in style the kind of forced confessional videos produced by terrorist organizations ISIS and Al-Qaeda, where hostages are filmed reading out prepared statements. On top of that, the incident came not long after the news of Hong Kong publisher Lee Bo’s (李波) abduction—it seemed that China’s modus operandi differs little from that of terrorists. At least, this author struggles with the question: just what is the difference between China bullying and humiliating a Taiwanese minor, and the likes of the Islamic State’s videos?
Then there was Huang An, the has-been singer who informed against her, and his self-satisfied gloating on Weibo afterwards. This not only showed his betrayal of Taiwan, and the hurt he caused Taiwan’s people, but also recalled the “Lord Haw-Haw” nickname given to broadcaster William Joyce, who spread propaganda for Germany and earned the reputation of an infamous traitor. The zealotry and fervor with which he carried on seemed to differ little from the kind of fanaticism with which ISIS zealots execute their own “enemies” or “traitors.” The way that Internet users in China mindlessly parroted Huang An’s remarks further led one to consider: What difference is there between that kind of extreme Chinese nationalism and the kind seen in the Islamic State?
China is a country with a history of nationalist extremism: for instance, the Boxer Rebellion of 1899, or the Cultural Revolution from 1966 to 1976—both are ISIS-style outbursts of fanaticism. The less stable the regime is, the more the authorities stoke nationalist fervor in an attempt to stabilize it.
The 1899 Boxer Rebellion took place because Empress Dowager Cixi began introducing Western institutions, leading the ignorant masses to be incited with slogans about “supporting the Qing and eliminating foreigners.” The Cultural Revolution was initiated by Mao Zedong to wrest back power from then-chairman of the PRC Liu Shaoqi.
Is Xi Jinping, in order to stabilize his own power, not only conniving at, but encouraging people like Huang An to bully and humiliate Taiwanese people? Will China, to fan nationalist sentiment in order to stabilize its own regime, even use force against Hong Kong and Taiwan? These questions bear our close attention.
But we can be certain of one thing: Whether it’s Taiwanese or Hongkongers, we all need to stand firm and say “no” to this extremism. Indulging the extremists will simply whet their appetite. There is an example from history: England and France’s appeasement policies before the Second World War swelled Hitler’s ambitions, and in the end a world war was inevitable. As Taiwan faces down China’s unhinged behavior, there’s simply no room for appeasement.
Martin Oei (黃世澤) is a columnist based in Hong Kong.
‘The Zhaos’ — The Demarcation of a Divide, January 6, 2016.
Chinese original 《你知道中國有多恐怖了吧》
By Lu Chiou-yuan, published: March 23, 2014
In Taiwan, a large-scale student protest against a trade pact (CSSTA) with China has escalated. Local time Sunday night and Monday morning, riot police drove out students who had occupied the Executive Yuan (video), injuring scores. With a translation of this short essay by a Taiwanese lawyer, we wish to afford our readers a glimpse at the Taiwaneses’ deep-seated fear and why they are on the streets now protesting against the pact (NYTimes) that the Kuomingtang government has been pushing forcefully. – The Editor
The truth is, many people don’t know much about the content of the service sectors trade pact with China, so they don’t know why people are opposing it. People no longer read about arguments online in support of the pact, nor would anyone dare to write more to advocate it. After all, it has become what political communication theory calls the Spiral of Silence. Whoever supports the pact is seen as betraying Taiwan and an idiot who will destroy his or her own employment prospects. But of course, there are also those who would ask: Does Ma Ying-jeou really dare to sell out Taiwan in broad daylight? Why does Ma Ying-jeou insists on signing a trade pact that is condemned all around?
Simply put, the pact opens up mutual investment in service sectors between China and Taiwan. With the pact, the Taiwanese will be able to invest in more service sectors and establish operations in sectors such as hospitals, publishing, tutoring industry, banking and more. In return, China can also invest in similar sectors in Taiwan. For Taiwanese capitalists, the benefits no doubt overweigh the drawbacks. But for average Taiwanese, if they don’t mind that their top bosses are from China, there will be more employment opportunities. After all, when money pours in, jobs do too.
Therefore, the service sectors trade pact is a good pact and mutually beneficial to China and Taiwan, right?
Let me reiterate: for those Taiwanese who want to invest in China, the pact offers big benefits . Meanwhile, it’s not bad either to want to have abundant Chinese money invested in Taiwan, to buy our corporations and to create jobs, not to mention that China would open more to Taiwan than otherwise. So what we have is an unequal pact, unfair to China and generous to Taiwan. The article-by-article review requested by many really isn’t that meaningful at all, because each article is a part of the whole, and how can we pick only those we like and keep mum about the fact that they are opening up to us?
So we should support such a pact?
This is a difficult question to answer. But let’s try: how about we replace China with Japan or the US? For example, we passed the FTA with New Zealand without the public condemning it. But with this pact, why is the public so repulsed and unyielding?
Because, China, I am afraid of you. Really, I’m am so afraid.
Honestly, Taiwan will have no problem with passing a similar pact with a country other than China. Suppose Japan opens up to Taiwanese investment [in these sectors], Japan invests in Taiwan, filling our streets with Japanese, I for one, as a pro-Japan Taiwanese, will feel wonderful. But unless we are a territory, or a colony, of Japan, the Japanese will hold their ground without giving in one inch when negotiating with us, insisting on fairness and mutual benefits.
But, as someone pointed out, the pact with China is perplexing in that China gives so much more to Taiwan than Taiwan gives to China. There is no free lunch in the world. From the point of view of economics, why is China giving up so much and letting Taiwan gain so much?
Children, because of love of course. China loves you, and hopes to take you back to the motherland sooner than later. And to take you back, China of course must first of all control Taiwan’s economic lifelines.
If one day, half of 7-Eleven and FamilyMart (小七 and 全家, two convenient store chains in TW) become Chinese investments, Pxmart and Wellcome (全聯 and 頂好, two supermarket chains in TW) are sold to mainland Chinese, and Taiwan Taxi (台灣大車隊, a taxi company) is renamed China Taxi; if in the future, when you go to the bank, your financial records will be sent to headquarters in Beijing; if Cathay General Hospital and Chang Gung Hospital (國泰醫院 and長庚醫院) are renamed China Cathay General Hospital and China Chang Gung Hospital respectively, and the hospital and its departments are all headed by people sent from China, can we accept that?
Realistically, the Taiwanese corporations that are capable of investing in China’s banking, hospitals, printing and taxi industries have to be big conglomerates, so the money will be made only by the Cais, Wangs, Guos (Taiwanese tycoons), not you and me.
For Chinese corporations to invest in Taiwan, the capital needed is like one hair to a cow, and these Chinese corporations are deeply tied to China’s political system. If one of these days, when Taiwan wants to hold a referendum [on independence], and 7-Eleven announces a suspension of its operations, China Taxi decides not to run the taxies, our credit card records and medical records are all in the headquarters in Beijing, China, will we be able to hold the referendum or not, I ask?
Don’t tell me this will not happen. Look at Tsai Eng-meng (蔡衍明)’s Want Want Group, look at how it has changed the China Times (《中國時報》) founded by Mr. Yu? I would say, these days the People’s Daily is probably a more interesting read than Want Want’s Want China Times.
The Chinese former leader Deng Xiaoping and the US president Ronald Reagan once talked about the freedom of movement. Reagan complained about the Chinese’s lack of freedom to travel abroad. Deng Xiaoping said offhandedly, no problem, we can send 1 billion Chinese to the US for sightseeing and to enjoy freedom. Reagan didn’t bring up the topic again.
Investment with free capital flow is the best thing that a service trade pact can bring us, but just not with China that tries to encroach on Taiwan through commerce.
I would be very happy to accept such a trade pact with a democratized China that treats Taiwan equally without attempting to annex us. Capital flows into Taiwanese industries and revitalizes our economy, high-quality Chinese managers come to Taiwan to live and consume, while our capitalists invest in a democratic China where they make money as an equal in a society with rule of law and bring their money back to Taiwan, wouldn’t that be wonderful?
But please tell me, the nation, what do we do if China one day announces the withdrawal of all the investment? What do we do if China foregoes the agreement and terminates Taiwanese businesses’ favored status in the name of the anti-secession law?
What do we do when Taiwanese investment in China is like a clay-made ox disappearing into a sea while Chinese investment in Taiwan is like thunder and storms raining down? What do we do when these things happen that won’t happen if the pact were with a democratic country?
One runs the risk of weeping a little, if one lets himself be tamed.
Would you like to be subdued? I wouldn’t. I’m very afraid, because I know I will have to embrace tears.
Lu Chiou-yuan (呂秋遠) is an executive partner at the Universal Master Law Office (宇達經貿法律事務所) in Taiwan that specializes in commerce.
Tycoon prods Taiwan closer to China, Washington Post
The Tea Leaf Nation translated an excerpt of the same article.
(Translation by China Change)