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Heard on Weibo – Xi Jinping’s visit to Iowa, Bo Xilai, and the taboo subject of fear

I came across a blog post yesterday that compares Weibo and Twitter, and the conclusion is that Weibo is not international and its power to promote change is limited. To that I will add that Weibo is really a glass house where it feels like you are free but you keep hitting the walls all the time. It is also becoming a mirror of the twisted world that China is, because, for example, while posts about what’s going on in the Tibetan area of Sichuan can result in a night visit by police (an artist friend of mine in Beijing emailed me on the 9th about being visited by four policemen the night before and taken to a station and warned of his posts about Tibetans), the insipid duel between Han Han (韩寒) and Fang Zhouzi (方舟子) could go on forever to become a national detective story. Still, Weibo has its power simply because things happen, words get out instantly before the censors catch up, like the night when 70 plus police cars surrounded the American Consulate in Chengdu. But the government is determined to have total control of whatever power is left of Weibo. Starting March 16, Weibo (regardless of provider) is required to implement total real-name registration. It remains to be seen how it will affect the online discourse, which is seriously flawed to begin with. One thing I can report at this point is that Twitter’s Chinese community is seeing an influx of newcomers.  

Referring to the “sing-red-and-crack-down-on-black (crime)” campaign (唱红打黑) led by Bo Xilai (薄熙来) in Chongqing:

  • 王金波@wangjinbo/ Wang Jin Bo/(dissident living in China)/:  “Singing revolutionary songs” is the lying part. “Cracking down on crimes” is the violence part. Therefore the so-called “sing-red-and-crack-down-on-black” campaign is the enhancement of lies and violence, the two bedrocks on which the totalitarian rule rests.

9:28 PM – 9 Feb 12 via web

Among Chinese intellectuals, activists, as well as concerned citizens, the debate is not whether China should change politically, but how it will. Will it be from bottom up or top down? Dissident intellectual Mo Zhixu, who on Twitter constantly warns against “illusionary hope” for top-down reform, gives his thoughts on bottom-up:   

  • 莫之许@mozhixu/Mo Zhixu/(Dissident intellectual)/: Establishing political parties, defending rights, signing 08 Charter, grass-mud-horse…. Any attempts for organization have been instantly crushed and people involved sentenced to heavy prison terms. It is impossible, under such circumstances, to build up grass-root pressure. Without it, there can be no such thing as bottom-up force. The ideas of bottom-up coercion and top-down reform both look pretty, but to a large degree, they are wishful thinking of those who have not participated in the actual struggle.

10:21 AM – 17 Feb 12 via Maverick Planet

  • 王功权/Wang Gongquan/(venture capitalist)/: If I say mainland Chinese are living in fear, many would say it’s a gross exaggeration and it’s sensationalism. But if I say mainland Chinese should start openly exploring the possibility and roadmap for forming organizations according to the Chinese Constitution that provides for freedom of association, right away, many people will think I am being too daring to say something like that. So sensitive a topic it is, that they will feel nervous about it. Do they live in fear or not?

Feb. 3 13:29  From Text Message  Repost (1734)| Comment(615)

Li Hai was a student leader during the June 4th movement. He was imprisoned for 9 years from 1995 to 2004 for investigating the status of hundreds of Beijing residents who were sentenced in the aftermath of June 4th:

  • lihai54李海/Li Hai/(dissident)/: When I went to college, I had never imagined anything like June 4th, 1989. Now I find it was meant to be and it had been waiting for me. Life stopped right there.

3 Feb Favorite Undo Retweet Reply


Pu Zhiqiang (浦志强) in 1989, now a lawyer whose clients include Ai Weiwei.

Xu Zhirong is a rights lawyer and founder of the Open Constitutional Initiative (公民联盟), a short-lived NGO dedicated to providing legal assistance to the poor and the powerless that was shut down by the government in 2009, and Xu himself was jailed on ridiculous tax-evasion charges:

  • 许志永@zhiyongxu/Xu Zhiyong/: Today I went to the Supreme Court for the 47th time to appeal for this wrongful case in Chengde that has dragged on for 17 years. When I was taking a photo of the reception hall, a court police officer with ID number 010100 grabbed my cell phone, thrust me down on a chair, and dealt four slaps to my face. How could they treat an ordinary petitioner like this? How can they be so monstrous?

10:08 AM – 13 Feb 12 via web

Yesterday, many people in Twitter’s Chinese community retweeted a video clip of a protest scene in Iowa. My Chinese tweet of it has been retweeted so many times that it made the “hourly hot word” via @spotHour. Below is the English version of my tweet and link to the video:

  • Must watch! Smart, spirited Tibetan protesters challenging dumbfounded, speechless, IGNORANT pro-China students in Iowa!

It’s sad to watch these kids, but they deserve to be verbally pummeled.

Just as I was wrapping up this edition of Heard on Weibo, I was referred to another clip of the same scene. This one provides a broader shot of the scene with interviews of a young man who is a student at U of I and a Chinese woman who teaches mathematics in a university in Iowa. Let me just say I don’t want any of my children to be taught by her, not at all because I disagree with her.

China has too many people and none of them have any manners

“I don’t like Chinese people. When I visited Guangzhou a few years ago everyone was cutting in line. They would use their elbows just to push past you. They didn’t even care if you had been standing there a long time, they always had to go first. In Malaysia people always line up, even when they are in a hurry.

China has too many people and none of them have any manners. Like when you go into the bathroom and nobody has even bothered to shut the door. You see everything and I just can’t stand it. I don’t want to see your penis and I definitely don’t want to watch you poop; it’s disgusting.

Furthermore, China doesn’t even have any traditional culture. Everything has been lost there. If you want to see lion dancing or dragon dancing you have to go to another country. In Malaysia you can see these things everywhere around Chinese New Year, but on the mainland they are only on TV.

And it’s not like I’ve only been to China once, I’ve been there four times and I still can’t stand it. When it really comes down to it I love China’s scenery, but I can’t stand it’s people.”

This is a rough translation from Chinese of the monologue given by our ethnically Chinese, Malaysian taxi driver when we mentioned that we lived in China. Other ethnic Chinese here have told us similar stories from their experiences with the mainland and so far 3 out of 4 didn’t have a single nice thing to say. I was more than a little surprised by their reactions.

Another Look at China in Africa

I stumbled across this short documentary about Chinese immigrants living in Senegal and thought some of you might enjoy another look at this topic. If you missed my 3-part series (The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly) on China’s Growing African Empire, I would suggest reading that along with this documentary.

I found that this film focused much more on the micro-economic effects of Chinese immigrants’ push into Africa, that was a piece missing from my own posts on the situation.