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Manchurians rise again, on the Internet

Guo Songdao 郭嵩焘 (1818-1891), Qing government ambassador to England and France.
The Asahi Shimbun's English edition has published an interesting article about growing awareness of Manchurian ethnic identity in China.
Manchus regain lost ethnic awareness through the Internet

...Today, however, a growing number of young Manchus are rekindling pride in their ethnic history and language. The growing interest is being aided by the expanding reach of the Internet, which enables Manchus to learn about their culture and embrace ties with other Manchu people.

In Beijing, volunteers teach Manchu language classes. And in recent years, vocal activists have begun pushing for a reinterpretation of China's recent history to include a Manchu viewpoint.

Online, heated discussions sometimes arise between Manchu and Han people, like this one recently seen on a bulletin board on the Manchu Net:

A Han person wrote: "If China had not been ruled by the Manchu people, the country would have developed much faster and would today be more like the United States."

A Manchu person replied: "No. The Manchu ethnic group created the strongest dynasty ever in Chinese history. We must think about China's current situation from a long-term view of civilization."...

The Asahi Shimbun article is here; it does not provide any links to the websites it mentions, but here is a selection of Manchurian themed sites:

Manchuria.cn (mirrored at Manchuren.com, image source)
Manchu forum

92-year old Salar man
On the topic of minorities, China Heritage Quarterly has just updated their website with a new issue. The online publication is produced by the China Heritage Project of Australia National University, and their website is treasure trove of articles and photographs about Chinese subjects.

The latest issue focuses on 'the cultural uniqueness of the north-west: Qinghai, Gansu and Ningxia'.

The issue includes features on Muslim ethnic groups such as the Salar and Dongxiang people, traditional performance arts from the north-west, carpets for Emperor Kangxi, and genitalia, totems and pottery.


Red Mansions to show Hu Mei the door?

Hu Mei with Daiyu winner Li Xudan (l) and Baochai winner Yao Di (r).
Although it's been almost a month since the conclusion of the televised casting competition for the new version of Dream of the Red Mansions, no one is really sure who will end up playing the leads. The director of the adaptation, Hu Mei, has said she reserves the right to refuse to cast the winners of the contest. She doesn't talk much to the domestic press, but that hasn't stopped them from speculating.

However, it was a foreign paper, The Times, that scored an interview with her this week:

Hu Mei has crowned a year-long television search for the leads in the most famous novel of Chinese literature by revealing that she will go her own way.

"You can choose who you like, but I will direct as I like," she said in an exclusive interview with The Times....

It was so complicated that the Chinese media described it as more difficult than the Goldbach conjecture, the unsolved mathematical puzzle. Contestants tossed out by the judges could return by popular vote. Others seemed to reappear just because they had good connections. Many made their way ahead with the help of financial backing.
The director, Ms Hu, had always hinted that she was unhappy with the process of using a contest reminiscent of Pop Idol to select three of the most arresting characters of Chinese literature. She told The Times: "I think the results are not satisfactory. Maybe I will try them in my other television programmes and when I shoot Dream of the Red Chamber it's possible that I may use them. But in the end maybe I will use none of them."

The contest's producers are not particularly happy with Hu's recalcitrance. From the Shanghai Morning Post:

Yesterday, Beijing TV deputy editor-in-chief and Red Mansions casting competition executive producer Zhang Qiang said that Beijing TV and Hu Mei had not signed a contract, but at the start the casting competition had signed an agreement with Red Mansions investor Central Motion Pictures Group. "If the new Red Mansions does not use the contestants, then we may switch directors."

However, Hu Mei told webcast host He Dong, who seems to be her sole confidant in the domestic media, that her plans for the new drama are completely independent of the casting competition, as are her own financial partners.

Here are some excerpts from He Dong's latest chat with Hu, in which she explains why she talked to The Times, the true nature of her relationship to the casting competition, and how the plans for the TV shoot are shaping up:

Media regulation

Xiamen to kill off anonymous posting

Local Xiamen media reported on Wednesday that the Xiamen Bureau of Industry and Commerce is preparing to require the use of real names on the Internet.

BIC vice-director Tian Feng revealed on 3 July that in mid-June, the Bureau began a draft edition of Measures for Management and Disposition of Harmful and Unhealthy Information on the Internet, which the municipal government will promulgate in the near future. The Measures will apply to more than one hundred thousand websites registered in Xiamen.

Mid-June, of course, was shortly after the major public protests against the construction of a PX chemical plant close to the city; the Internet played an important role in organizing the protests. Were the Measures hastily drawn up in response to that event? Southern Metropolis Daily found contradictory answers.

Some excerpts from the SMD report:

The (Draft) Measures require websites to promptly filter, block, and delete harmful and unhealthy information according to a keyword list provided by the municipal Party Publicity Office and the Politics and Law Commission.

The draft also requires the establishment of a management mechanism for websites and discussion forums, including systems for quick deletion of unhealthy information (不良信息快速删除机制), discussion with individuals responsible for offending websites (违规网站责任人约谈机制), punishment of offending websites (违规网站处罚机制), and circulation of directives about online public opinion (网站舆情吹风会制度). Moderators of political boards would be required to use their real names, and functionality for freely starting sub-forums and posting anonymous comments would be canceled. Forum posts would be screened before they are posted.

Violators who disseminate harmful or unhealthy information would be handled according to the Law on Punishment, including such measures as detention or fines.

Scholarship and education

Should students decide whether their classmates are poor?

On Tuesday, China Youth Daily reported on a new process instituted by the Ministry of Education to determine whether college students deserve financial aid. As one key part of the process, schools would set up review panels made up of the applicant's classmates, who would vote on whether or not the applicant deserved aid.

The rationale, as reported by CYD:

In the past, investigating the economic circumstances of a student's family relied predominantly on the student's own personal narrative, or on documentation from the student's local government. But in practice, some "impoverished students" did not actually live impoverished lives. To find out the truth of the matter, some schools began scattered exploratory surveys of students' classmates, but this was never done systematically or on a large scale.

The formation of review panels then brings this work under the supervision of classmates and advisors. Cui Bangyan [an inspector with the finance division of the Ministry of Education and the head of the National Grants Management Center] said that there would be one panel for each year or department led by resident advisors and made up of homeroom teachers and students themselves. The student members would be widely representative and would amount to at least 10% of the class or department.

The review panels would also have a particular "orientation." Cui Bangyan said that during the course of democratic appraisal, the panels would place emphasis on students in special situations - orphaned or disabled students, children of martyrs, and students whose family members have long-term illnesses or whose family has suffered from a natural disaster or emergency situation.

Reportedly, assessment of students with financial difficulties would take place once each academic year.

The announcement also included a minimum wage for on-campus student jobs and a cap on the number of hours students are permitted to work.

Many commentators are not too thrilled at the prospect that financial aid for economically disadvantaged students will rely on the judgment of that student's classmates. Here's Tang Jun in today's The Beijing News:

IP and Law

Baidu in the music business?

A major reason for search engine Baidu's popularity is its efficient MP3 search function, which allows Chinese music fans to easily find downloadable files of popular music. Of course most of this music is pirated, but Baidu's responsibilities is not clear, because the files are merely located, not hosted by Baidu.

The risk of a new law, or a lawsuit that goes after Baidu's MP3 search service for intellectual property infringement is sometimes cited as a danger for the search engine that is said to have the greatest number of users in China.

However, the risk also carries with it an opportunity. Reuters reports:

China's Baidu sets up online music partnership

Chinese Web search leader Baidu.com Inc. has set up a partnership with popular Chinese-language record label Rock Music Group to provide an online music streaming service.

Rock Music will license part of its music repertoire to Baidu users for free, and both companies will share revenue from Internet advertising, they said in a statement dated July 4.

If Apple could adapt faster than the record companies to the realities of the Internet and thus take the music industry by storm, why not Baidu?

China's record companies are in dire straits: they struggle to sell even sell legitimate copies of CDs, let alone MP3s. Baidu should easily be able to sign up several record companies to make their catalogues available online.

Baidu also has the connections and home grown China credentials to work out a partnership with China Mobile that would enable mobile downloads and an efficient billing system.

Baidu and the Chinese music business: it could be the start of a beautiful friendship.

Links and Sources
Intellectual Property

Sanmao goes overseas

Sanmao, the wandering orphan created by cartoonist Zhang Leping in the 1930s, has been adapted for the screen many times over the years.

The latest adaptation, a live-action movie, is a Sino-Belgian co-production; some fans are worried about the prospect of Sanmao being "updated" and deprived of his Chineseness. Here's a recent article by Zhang's son Zhang Rongrong that explains how and why the family decided to grant a Belgian director the rights to the project:

Why we agreed to a co-production of Sanmao

by Zhang Rongrong / XEN

Sanmao has not "gone to live abroad"

Sanmao was created by my father, Zhang Leping. We siblings are the inheritors of the Sanmao intellectual property. More than a year ago, we signed a contract with a Belgian film company granting them the rights to film a Sanmao movie; in addition to stipulating that the movie must use live actors (i.e. not a cartoon) and must be adapted from the original Sanmao's Wanderings comic book, there were a few other special rules to guarantee that Sanmao's image would not suffer. For example, the contract stipulated that the movie "must respect relevant Chinese laws and regulations and must not produce any negative influence on the work (i.e. the original Sanmao's Wanderings comic book) or Sanmao," and "the licensee (i.e. the foreign side) shall not register Sanmao or the Sanmao image as a trademark."

The contract with the foreign side also stipulated that "the licensee may freely select its own partners, but one must be a Chinese partner," in order to guarantee that the movie would be a joint production. The movie, which is currently in pre-production, is set in old Shanghai, so no matter which way you look at it, Sanmao has definitely not "gone to live abroad."

The contract clearly stipulates that "the intellectual property rights to Sanmao and the Sanmao image are the sole property of the licensor." There have been some rumors that Sanmao would "go Korean" or become a Mr. Bean-type character to amuse adults. But Sanmao is simply Sanmao. His unique personality traits will not change. If Sanmao's image were truly going to be injured, not only would we (the licensor) definitely not consent, the Chinese joint production partner would not consent either. For example, there is one passage in the script that goes like this: Sanmao rescues a foreign child from the river. The child lives in Shanghai, and to repay Sanmao, the child's parents provide Sanmao with room and board at their home. But in just a few days, Sanmao becomes leaves angrily after the foreign family's unfair treatment of him. This story was taken from my father's Sanmao's Wanderings; the rescued child was changed into a foreigner, but Sanmao's personality was not changed.

Net Nanny Follies

Wordpress blog host unblocked

China's Net Nanny seems to have unblocked the Wordpress blog hosting service which has been inaccessible since February 2006.

Weifang Radish is the only China-related blog hosted on Wordpress that your correspondent knows of, but feel free to add others in the comments section.

Naturally, the unblocking could just be a mistake, a side-effect of Nanny accidentally doubling her dose of meds. Have a look at Danwei's Net Nanny Follies channel for more on the crazy old gal's recent activities.

UPDATE: False alarm: Wordpress seems to be blocked again (July 3).

Scholarship and education

Harmony means everyone gets a passing grade

Last Friday, China Youth Daily reported that a young teacher with the College of Art at Shanghai Normal University had been punished by the school for failing a number of students who had plagiarized their term papers.

During a grading session in February, Mr. Ma noticed varying degrees of plagiarism in the papers of eight students, so he marked them zero, submitted his grades, and went on vacation. At the start of the spring semester, the administration hauled him into the office and ordered him to change the grades; when he refused, they punished him for being "subjective" - he had overlooked several other plagiarized papers.

Ma believes the main reason for his punishment is that the college is upset with him for "making trouble for the school and destroying its harmonious atmosphere." Here's an excerpt from the CYD narrative:

The second time they talked about the matter occurred in the administrator's office not long after school resumed. There, Ma said that he did not intend to cancel the scores.

"So long as there is one sentence of the students' own writing in their papers, you cannot give a zero," said the administrator, "shocking" Ma. Another line was even more "stunning": "You either pass them all, or fail them all."

Scholarship and education

Wu Si on the intractable problem of forced labor

Wu Si (吴思) is the author of the highly influential history books Hidden Rules (潜规则) and The Principle of Blood Payment (血酬定律). He also serves as vice-president of Yanghuang Chunqiu magazine (炎黄春秋 aka Chinese Chronicles), which has been on a reformist bent this year.

In an interview published in this week's Southern Metropolis Weekly (Life edition), Wu reflects on the Shanxi brick kiln scandal in the context of the history of forced labor in China over the past few centuries, as well as how it relates to China's capitalist reforms.

Wu Si: The illegal kiln affair and the local tyrant system

by Chen Jianli / SMW

After the media exposed the Shanxi kiln affair, there was a swift reaction from critics, who went after the core issue from different perspectives. The ethical bravery and rational power of public opinion became a welcome bright spot amid the process of rescuing the kiln slaves. Today, aid has been mobilized, but the analysis and contemplation of the situation should not halt yet. We have been searching for a deeper vision with which to evaluate the illegal kiln affair, and we found Mr. Wu Si. This student of history, who discovered amid the voluminous historical record "unwritten rules" and a "principle of blood payment," has had his theories verified by the illegal kilns: do not those cold-blooded, black-hearted kiln-masters and local officials believe in none other than grey "unwritten rules" and a blood-drenched "principle of blood payment"? The final termination of illegal kilns depends on the termination of the local blood payment system. Wu Si has a new concept to apply to the illegal kiln affair - the local tyrant system. And it is under the local tyrant system that illegal kilns spring up all over.

China has had illegal mines since ancient times

Southern Metropolis Weekly: Looking at the information revealed in the Shanxi illegal brick kilns affair - child labor, the mentally disabled, corpses, wolfhounds, thugs, the town's party secretary, and the 95% unlicensed rate - were you surprised?
Wu Si: I wasn't surprised. These things aren't unique to Shanxi. Other provinces may have them as well, and history shows that this sort of thing was prevalent throughout China. In addition, the solutions of the past were basically the same as those today - they rely on supervision of the subordinates by their superiors. If China did not have this sort of thing, then I'd find it strange. Because the core power structure has not changed: it is still an upwardly-responsible pyramid. The exposure of this incident just further corroborates my argument.

SMW: So looking at history we can see that this type of thing has been around for a while?
Wu: I'll read for you a few passages that I've copied down. In the twelfth month of the fourth year of Jiaqing (1799), Jiaqing issued an edict: "Xishan's coal-pits are most vulnerable to harboring treachery. We have heard that there is a bandit in that place named 'Water Foreman' who coaxes common people into the pits and flogs them so ruthlessly that they die." The emperor commanded the Shunyi Magistrate: "If there is such a ruffian, then find him, seize him, and prepare a memorial so that his crimes may be punished according to the law."

So a magistrate named Lu led a contingent "through many pits, thunderously liberating all of the miners imprisoned in the tiny dorms." And they dismantled all of the coalpits and dorms. The records state that the miners who were rescued "all cheered and put their hands to their foreheads." The Xishan coalpits were where Mentougou is today.


Playboy mansion for Macao - but will anyone go?

Playboy magazine has seen its sales decimated on one end by by crass lads mags like FHM, and on the other end by easily available Internet pornography.

However, the magazine's name and it bunny logo remain widely recognized from Australia to Zambia. The group, under the leadership of Hugh Hefner's daughter Christy, is therefore putting money into its other lines of business: namely Internet, video, and the Playboy branded clothing line.

In addition, Playboy has started opening Playboy clubs again. The original chain of clubs ran from 1960 to 1988, mostly in the U.S., and were a major source of income for the Playboy empire. After opening a new Playboy Club in Las Vegas last year, the famous bunny is bound for China.

Christy Hefner recently announced plans to build a Playboy club in Macao. Variety magazine said that Playboy Enterprises and Macao Studio City had joined forces to open up a "Playboy Mansion ... described variously as a 'club' and a 'multi-faceted entertainment destination'."

It will be interesting to see if it works: in a city full of brothels, will the prospect of being served cocktails by girls dressed as bunnies have any appeal for the punters?

In unrelated news, a Danwei source close to the Wynn casino in Macao has reported the the new American-owned gambling houses are currently getting the jitters: the Mainland authorities have slowed down the processing of travel permits to Macao, which has drastically reduced the house takings of the clutch of new casinos in the city.

If you want to see what some of the new casinos look like, below is a Danwei video shot about a year ago in Macao.

UPDATE: Philip S. sent email noting that Playboy.com is currently accessible in China. It is not clear when the long-standing block on the website was removed, but the unblocking may be a temporary typical glitch.

Links and Sources
Media and Advertising

Political structure and the Shanxi kiln scandal

"Poor governance" has been the buzzword this week in opinion pieces reflecting on the recent brick kiln slavery scandal in Hongdong County, Shanxi. Commentators lauded the watchdog role of the media and the Internet and railed against the corruption and malfeasance of Shanxi officials.

Overall, a sharp distinction was made between "poor governance" at a local level - be it the active participation of the local police or the willful ignorance of local government officials - and the central government

In the Jamestown Foundation's China Brief, Willy Lam finds the central government at least partially culpable in this scandal because of "serious lapses in the administrative ability of both Beijing and the provinces."

This is echoed in the lead editorial in the 25 June issue of China Newsweek which, though still laying most of the blame on "local officials" and "low-level political organs", discusses the central government's actions in a frustrated tone:

This case was the same old story: the illegal actions were exposed primarily because media reports kicked up a storm of public opinion, with online public opinion in particular fiercely indignant. Then the government's attention was attracted. Various central government departments personally took to the field before the local government was spurred into action, swift and vigorous, and the problem - or at least this particular case - finally found a fairly acceptable solution.

However, it's not hard to imagine that the central government cannot give such close attention or invest so many resources for each and every case of injustice among the public. For this reason, the usual way to solve problems like this should fall to the effective operation of the local government and low-level political organs. If the local government does not actively exert itself, then the attention of the central government will be substantially diminished. For example, in 2004, Premier Wen Jiabao issued instructions concerning Zhang Xubo, the young man who in 2002 was tricked into working in the Shanxi kilns and who had his legs broken by the foreman, but he has yet to receive the 490,000 yuan in compensation ordered by the courts.

The piece then asks, "When will the assurances offered by the central government to the victims in the Hongdong case become the normal state of affairs."

Cultural critic Zu Dake went one step further on his blog, indicting China's current political system for allowing, and even encouraging, the situation in Hongdong:

The Hongdong Effect in Chinese Society

by Zhu Dake

Corrupt, violent, shameless, and seriously anti-human, the Shanxi kiln slavery affair is one of the 21st Century world's darkest episodes. Those illegal brick kilns that kept thugs and dogs not only illegally trafficked in children and disabled individuals, forcing them to serve as slaves, but also even more ruthlessly mistreated and tortured them, killing them and destroying their minds. The brutal violence of their techniques utterly exceeds the bounds of human imagination. This is not just China's shame - it is a shame on all human civilization.

Business and Finance

How to donate money to a bank

Image from ZJOL.
As part of its revamped commentary section, Southern Weekly moved its "Letters to the Editor" page to the business section and retitled it "Taxpayer's Voices: What's Annoying Me."

This week's gripe comes from Hong Er:

Several years ago I was working for a Shanghai company in Guangzhou. My employer set up an account for me at Shanghai's Minsheng Bank. During that year, I think I did right by Mingsheng Bank - every time I made a withdrawal in Guangzhou, I had to pay "out-of-area withdrawal processing fees." I later moved and lost my card. I noted that there were not many Mingsheng Bank branches in Guangzhou, and my card didn't have much money on it anyway. Today I passed by a Minsheng Bank, so I took out my ID to check - it said I had 83 yuan left.

So how can I withdraw 83 yuan?

A Minsheng Bank teller told me with a smile: first I would have to go to Shanghai to report my card lost and then get a new card. Then I could withdraw 83 yuan. It would take seven business days to replace the card.

I've not been to Shanghai for quite some time. Doing the sums, I would need two round-trips - four tickets - to withdraw that 83 yuan, not even figuring in the time cost. Or I could send my ID to a friend in Shanghai and have him report the loss and apply for a new card, but that would at least require two express deliveries plus my pal's time standing in line, as well as the fees for replacing the card...

Think about it - if I had better things to do, then I'd just give the money to Minsheng Bank.

The girl at the bank heard this and corrected me: you can't say that! True, even if I wanted to give Minsheng Bank that 83 yuan, it wouldn't accept my contribution if I didn't follow this procedure, even though the money is lying in the Minsheng vault and is assessed small-balance maintenance fees every year.

According to Minsheng Bank regulations, only after waiting for the sum to be slowly eaten away would I'd realize my wish to give them 83 yuan.

I know, this regulation is not unique to Minsheng Bank. China's banks all seem to be like that. I remember one time when I wanted to withdraw the last 12 yuan remaining in a closed account at the Agriculture Bank. I waited in line all day, then obediently went to photocopy my ID at the copy-shop, then returned to pay the 5 yuan lost-card fee, and then waited several days until I could go to the Agriculture Bank that my account was opened at to withdraw 7 yuan. I couldn't do it - the bank I opened my account with was pretty far off, and the round trip bus fare was about 7 yuan.

We all know that China's banks are rich now. They're listing overseas, and foreigners have rushed to buy stock in them. Even so, if I'd like to give them 83 yuan, there's no way that'll happen.


Suddenly I had an idea - I hereby declare, as a Chinese citizen and a smallest-of-the-small depositor, I voluntarily donate the 83 yuan left in my Minsheng account to Minsheng Bank!


Were Time and Fortune wrong about Hong Kong?

Cover photo on the 18 June issue of Time Asia.
Earlier this month, Time Asia published a cover feature looking at how Hong Kong has changed during the decade since it was returned to China. One article mentioned in passing that Fortune's prediction that the handover would bring about the "death of Hong Kong" was totally mistaken.

FEER's Travellers' Tales blog notes that the 1995 article by Louis Kraar and Joe McGowan under the headline "The Death of Hong Kong," far from predicting disaster, was actually "one of the more insightful and measured pre-handover analyses."

Naturally, the Chinese media picked up on the disavowal, crowing "Time got it wrong" in headlines across the country. Journalist Han Song analyzed the reaction on his blog:

"American magazine Time admits its mistake in a 25-page feature: Hong Kong's return did not lead to its death" - this was the trendy headline printed in bold type in the major domestic news media this week. And not just as the lead story for newspapers - it even made a rare appearance on CCTV's Network News. I saw Ms. Xing Zhibin proudly report Time's acknowledgment of its mistake, and I got the sense that this was virtually a national celebration. It seemed even more celebratory than putting a rocket on the moon.

The main source for the report was the latest issue of the weekly Time (Asia edition) whose cover story contained the line, "Time's sister magazine Fortune once infamously, and incorrectly, predicted that its return to China would bring about its death. Yet Hong Kong is more alive than ever."

Actually, this single statement taken from a 25-page feature was extracted by the Chinese media and, with the key words "admits its mistake" added, was made into headlines and summaries. Chinese reporters obviously don't lack a nose for news.

However, only International Herald Leader did things a bit more professionally. That paper interviewed the team behind the Time cover, and the answer it received was the complete opposite: we absolutely do not admit any mistake.

"That is absolutely not the case," Ms. Shao, PR manager for Time's Hong Kong office, told IHL. In standard Mandarin, she gave a clear denial of the idea that Time admitted its mistakes: "Impossible."

"We have not clarified or corrected anything. We're only recognizing the facts, but we have not admitted to any errors," said [Zoher] Abdoolcarim, the author of the piece, in an email to IHL.

In my opinion, it's not really important who's right and who's wrong, or whether mistakes are acknowledged. The key point is that more and more, China cares about international commentary, particularly from western countries. And even more importantly, we are more and more confident that we can receive favorable commentary. I don't know when this self-confidence first started to stir, nor do I know what form its gradual development has taken, to the point that I'm not very confident about this self-confidence of ours.

On the other hand, Phoenix TV president and CEO Liu Changle thinks that the Time article did not go far enough in its about-face. From an interview in The Beijing News today:

The Beijing News: After ten years, looking back at the development of Hong Kong, many in the western media changed their former opinions. For example, Time recently made a public statement about this.
Liu Changle: Yes, Time recently said, "We want to apologize to Hong Kong. The weather in Hong Kong today is sunshine, with clouds." However, I think that this ought to be "sunny skies," not "sunshine, with clouds." But for them to be able to say "sunshine, with clouds," is quite a step anyway. We think that they're really something - they acknowledge the changes and can be apologetic about it.

Abdoolcarim's article is here, and includes links to other articles in the feature.

Links and Sources

China's unfavorable copyright imbalance

GAPP just released a report on the state of China's publishing industries in 2006. The report concluded that, while China's copyright-related trade has made strides, the "unfavorable copyright trade imbalance" hasn't fundamentally reversed.

In support of this conclusion, the report cited figures showing that 12,386 copyrighted publication titles "from elsewhere" were sold in China in 2006, while China exported only 2,057 copyrighted publication titles. The report includes comments from industry experts saying that the competitive power of China's "book products" is still relatively weak. Chinese books that "walk out" into the international arena will have to "carry a heavy load over a long distance."

To anyone with passing familiarity with the quality of media published in China, the fact that China imports vastly more publications than it exports should be no surprise. Years of censorship, restrictions on market access, rampant copying and ingrained corruption have taken their toll on product quality. As a result, reporting and non-fiction writing in China tends to be simplistic (or simply propaganda) and include inaccuracies; comprehensiveness and analysis is rare. Fiction writing often lacks the drama and plot developments that characterize storytelling that captures a global audience.

The "unfavorable copyright trade imbalance" — or, put another way, the absence of international demand for Chinese publications — reflects the global market's assessment of the quality of Chinese publications. China would be well-advised to accept this lack of demand as a function of market forces, rather than crying unfairness or discrimination. Pushing Chinese publications into an unwilling market will only leave international audiences with a sour impression of Chinese media. If China thinks the copyright trade imbalance is unfavorable now, think how much worse it will be after global readers have slogged through "The Selected Works of Jiang Zemin" and sworn, "Never again."

Links and Sources

Press freedom in Hong Kong, ten years on

Award-winning page layout from Wen Wei Po in 2006.
As part a series of reports on Hong Kong's first decade back in Chinese hands, The Beijing News interviewed Zhang Guoliang, head of Hong Kong's Wen Wei Po (文汇报), about the changes to Hong Kong's press environment.

Zhang Guoliang joined Wen Wei Po in 2000; prior to that he worked as general editor of Reference News, and he served as head of the Xinhua News Agency in Hong Kong throughout most of the 1990s.

"Hong Kong media's sense of responsibility is growing"

Interview with Zhang Guoliang
by Xu Chunliu / TBN

The Beijing News: Around 1997, when you were leading Xinhua's work in Hong Kong, things were probably very complicated, particularly with the Hong Kong government throwing up all sorts of hidden obstacles. How did Xinhua contend with those at the time?
Zhang Guoliang: After Patten arrived there was a plan to overhaul the government, to accelerate the so-called democratic process, increase the number of directly-elected representatives. This was what we called the three violations: a violation of the Basic Laws, a violation of the Sino-British Joint Declaration, etc. The British had control for more than one hundred years and they didn't do democracy. At the time of the Sino-British Joint Declaration, there were no directly-elected legislators, but as soon as Hong Kong was to be handed over to China, they arrived. Of course, the Joint Declaration and the Basic Law took Hong Kong's democratic process fully into account and laid out a plan for a step-by-step implementation of democracy. We always fought with the British over the three violations, we always criticized them. Later, when China and Britain reopened talks that ran 20 rounds, we ran criticisms every time Britain was unreasonable or violated the Joint Declaration.

TBN: Did the British government in Hong Kong ever put pressure on Wen Wei Po?
Zhang: Before the return, Wen Wei Po was discriminated against by the British government in Hong Kong. Their officials would not accept interviews from Wen Wei Po, and for this reason, they didn't care whether you criticized them. Everyone knew where both parties stood. Wen Wei Po was always subject to marginalization and pressure.

TBN: You mean that the British government in Hong Kong allowed your existence but discriminated against you politically?
Zhang: The political discrimination was serious, but there was nothing they could do, since we were a legally-registered news agency.

Media business

Hunan animation powerhouse and Sequoia

Billsdue blog has translated some interesting news about the animation industry in a post titled 'Caijing On Foreign Investment In China's Entertainment Industry'. Excerpt:

Among the interesting tidbits mentioned is that Sequoia China has apparently closed up to a $10M investment into Polybona (保利博纳. Variety backgrounder), one of China's largest private film distribution companies.

In addition, the article mentions that Sequoia China investee Great Dreams Cartoons (宏梦卡通) is discussing a merger with Sunchime Cartoons (三辰卡通). In fact, according to the CEO of Great Dreams, Wang Hong (王宏), there may be a merger underway of the top three animation companies (one an animation channel) in Hunan Province--Great Dreams, Sinchime and Aniworld (金鹰卡通) to create an animation powerhouse.

Sequoia China is the Chinese investment vehicle of the famous Silicon valley VC firm that was an early investor in Google and Youtube.

Read the whole thing on Billsdue (proxy link for people in China), or see the original Chinese article is on Caijing's website.

UPDATE From a press release published on CNN.com:

Linktone Ltd. , a leading provider of wireless interactive entertainment products and services to consumers in China, announced today that the Company has formed a joint venture with Greatdreams Cartoon Industry to provide animated cartoon wireless value added services to 367 million teenagers in China.

Trends and Buzz

The media circus when a celebrity dies

Cross-talk performer Hou Yaowen died of a heart attack in Beijing over the weekend. Hou, son of the even more famous cross-talk master Hou Baolin, was 59.

Hou's sudden, premature death has had domestic media - both online and off - following the story to a degree that prompted entertainment journalist He Dong to mock the media circus on his blog. Here's a translation:

The death of a celebrity, a festival for the paparazzi

by He Dong

A while ago, Huang Ju died. At that time I immediately wrote something up, but as soon as I posted it on my blog, it was automatically deleted. Then I received a system email: "We apologize for any inconvenience this has caused." I then thought that it must be great to be a comrade leader, you can die in peace, or at least the system controls by the higher-ups won't allow the general public to mourn chaotically - at any rate you can't say anything. Because there are norms, see.

But now as soon as the news of Hou Yaowen's passing reached the Internet, an entertainment editor immediately picked up the phone: "Do you have anything to say?" I replied, "There's nothing I can say at the moment." The editor said "Oh," and hung up.

Times change, so everything can change into something else. When celebrities are alive, the entertainment news will follow them every day. In the event of their death, then it immediately turns into a huge gossip festival! Websites, for example - they're the fastest! At the very first moment they post black-bordered photos and mini biographies. Later they make up a "memorial" page to allow the public that was unable to express their opinions on Huang Ju's death space to air their grief about the death of a celebrity.

But all this is a trap. In years past when people passed on, we wished them rest in peace, but now with entertainment gossip, there's no rest until the celebrity's death is hyped up into a big festival; what's critical is to dig up all sorts of significant and insignificant things to fill up pages to your own satisfaction and to satiate the public's desire to pry.

Net Nanny Follies

Blogsome sort of blocked

The Net Nanny, not satisfied with the recent blocking of Typepad, is on the rampage again. This time her target is the relatively unknown blog host, Blogsome.com.

Strangely enough, not all blogs on the site are blocked, but many are, including the new Black and White Cat (proxy link).

Black and White Cat comments:

Now, some people might unfairly suggest that I have been blocked. But this cannot be true since I have it on good authority that Internet censorship does not exist in China. Since that is obviously true, the real cause must be technical difficulties. I know that relevant departments must very eager to solve these difficulties, and I think I have a solution. As many people have discovered, proxies seem to have a magical ability to solve certain problems of a technical nature. My idea is simple: those proxy people should get together with the relevant departments here, form a mutually beneficial joint venture, and install proxy software in all ISP servers - rather like Cisco, I suppose. A win-win solution.



Xinhua Bookstore's competitors are both online and in-house

China's Xinhua Bookstore brand turned 70 this May. The bookstore traces its pedigree to a Yan'an store that opened in 1937, and at present, it "has grown into a mammoth distributing and retailing conglomerate, owning 3,100 subsidiary companies and 14,000 chain stores, and employing a workforce of 150,000," in the words of China Daily.

Earlier this month, shortly after the Sichuan branch had its IPO in Hong Kong, China Daily discussed the threat online bookstores posed to the giant:

Indeed, book retail businesses in China have undergone dramatic changes over the past few decades, says Xu Shengguo, researcher with the China Institute of Publishing Science....By the end of 2006, almost all of the 565 publishing houses in China have opened online bookstores as well as put their products on some 300 privately owned online bookstores, says Xu, a key author of Annual Report on the Publishing Industry in China.
In 2006, the total net profit of China's book retail sector reached 50 billion yuan (6.5 billion U.S. dollars), of which online book sales garnered about 1 billion yuan (130 million U.S. dollars) - a 2-percent year-on-year increase, Xu says.
"It is too early to predict the demise of traditional bookstores in the foreseeable future," Xu insists. He believes that printed books will exist for quite a long time. But with book markets further diversifying, "traditional bookstores will surely be elbowed to a minor position in the near future"....But to keep up with the new market trends, Xinhua Bookstores have made continued adjustments over past few years, as smaller outlets at provincial levels combine to form grouped companies, says Xu.

However, according to a recent analysis in China Business Herald, Xinhua Bookstore's main problems are found offline. Until recently, Xinhua was the sole national distributor for books, and it had a monopoly on the sales of primary- and secondary-school textbooks. But in 2003 and 2004, GAPP opened up the publishing and distribution market to foreign capital and started to grant domestic companies the power to run national chains of retail outlets and to distribute books across the country. Also in 2004, GAPP began implementing a national plan to invite bids for textbook distribution rights.

The CBH article closes with a discussion of Xinhua Bookstore's internal problems involving local protectionism and brand management:

Media business

Media Tyrannosaurs

Found via Mind Meters, the Youtube video below is titled Prometeus - The Media Revolution. It's a faux documentary look back at a new media revolution, seen from the year 2050 or so. It was made by an Italian company that does consulting work in social media and other trendy stuff, and the narrator has a pleasant Italian accent.

The video includes this prediction:

The media arena is less and less populated. Only the Tyrannosaurus Rex survives. The Net includes and unifies all the content. Google buys Microsoft. Amazon buys Yahoo! and become the world universal content leaders with BBC, CNN and CCTV.

(Emphasis added)

If you liked Prometeus - The Media Revolution, you might also enjoy a video that was going round the Internet in 2004, before Youtube had even launched, called 2014 EPIC, by Google.

In a similar vein but strictly fact-based, The Machine is Us/ing Us elegantly explains the meaning of Web 2.0 means in five minutes.

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