Posted by Jeremy Goldkorn on Thursday, June 8, 2006 at 3:32 AM
Media and Visual Culture in the People's Republic of China
A timeline: 1978 to 2008
The first version of this timeline was commissioned and edited by Christine de Baan for the 'China Contemporary' exhibition at Nederlands Foto Museum in Rotterdam in 2006.
The original timeline was created by Joel Martinsen and Jeremy Goldkorn. This updated version was compiled and designed by Lydia Wallace and edited by Goldkorn and Martinsen.
Instead of being all-inclusive or comprehensive, this timeline aims to portray the flavour of each year to allow readers unfamiliar with recent Chinese media history to have an all-round feeling of what it has been like to live through the changes of the last 30 years.
We welcome readers' comments and suggestions and will continue to edit and update the timeline on a monthly basis.
Deng Xiaoping named Time Magazine Man of the Year 1978
- Deng Xiaoping assumes power and soon introduces reforms that start China's transition from a planned to a market economy. He is named Time Magazine person of the year in 1978.
- On May 1st, Beijing TV (BTV) is renamed China Central Television Station (CCTV)
1979 Toothpaste Advertisement
- On January 4th, China's first post-Cultural Revolution newspaper advertisement is published in the Tianjin Daily. The ad is for Blue Sky toothpaste.
- On January 28th, China's first post-Cultural Revolution TV commercial appears on Shanghai TV. The commercial is for an alcoholic drink with tonic properties.
First advertisement in The People's Daily
- On March 15th, Ogilvy becomes the first foreign advertising agency to publish an ad in the Chinese press when they publish an ad for Rado watches in the Shanghai Wenhui Bao newspaper (文汇报).
- On April 17th, The first newspaper advertisement appears in the Communist Party organ The People's Daily, for industrial machinery.
- Japanese cartoon Astroboy is broadcast on CCTV. At that time, there was only one channel. Soon after that, the American TV serial The Man from Atlantis begins airing.
Ma Desheng, one of 'the stars', at his illegal 1979 exhibit.
- 'The Stars' are a group of artists who paint and sculpt in styles that depart completely from both social realism and traditional Chinese art. This is unacceptable to the authorities. After countless rejections from the China National Art Gallery, on 27 September they hang their paintings and sculptures on the railings outside the gallery. The foreign, contemporary style of their works sends shock waves through Beijing's cultural community.
18 Years in the Enemy Camp
- China's first home-grown TV series, CCTV's nine-episode 'Diying Shiba Nian' (敌营十八年, 18 Years in the Enemy Camp), starts broadcasting on February 5th. The serial tells the story of a People's Liberation Army spy who stayed with the KMT army.
- The first issue of Jiankang Zhiyou (健康之友, Woman's Day), the first post-Cultural Revolution woman's magazine is published on July 1st. The magazine focuses on women's health and — as the liberal climate of China in the 1980s sets in — more and more on fashion, cosmetics and beauty.
- CCTV begins broadcasting on a second channel, and starts to lease time to external companies and sell advertising.
- The State Council officially announces 'Advertisement Management Temporary Regulations'. These rules show central government support for developing the advertising industry, but as 'regulations', they do not have the force of 'laws'.
- Xinguancha (新观察, New Observer) magazine publishes an article introducing Western rock music.
- China's TV industry begins to reform with the introduction of the 'Four Level Administrative Guidelines' in order to develop radio and TV broadcasting at four levels (central, provincial, prefecture and county). This is the first step in China's decentralization of media authority.
- The National Games sports competition is sponsored for the first time by many companies wanting exposure on TV, radio and in newspapers, ushering in the mainstream use of media as an advertising channel.
Kung Fu series Huo Yuan Jia
- Hong Kong kung fu TV series Huo Yuan Jia starts broadcasting on CCTV on May 6th. In the same year, Japanese, Brazilian, and Mexican TV serials also start playing in China.
- China's TV audience grows to 600 million people.
- State-owned news agency Xinhua publishes Liaowang (瞭望, Outlook), the first mainland news magazine to have overseas distribution, via a deal with a New York magazine distributor.
- Global advertising agency Ogilvy opens an office in China.
- On August 35th, the first email is sent from China from a computer at the Chinese Academy of Sciences by Wu Weimin. The email is sent to a fellow scientist at CERN in Switzerland. It takes another decade for the Internet to become available to the public.
- Cui Jian, China's first and most famous rock musician — often called the Godfather of Chinese rock — releases Rock 'n Roll on the New Long March. The songs on the record can be read as an ironic commentary on growing up in a world where socialism is collapsing but the rhetoric remains the same. The album is a smash hit and inspires Chinese youth across the country.
- CCTV reaches 270 million yuan revenue.
Zhang Yimou's Red Sorghum.
- Zhang Yimou films Red Sorghum, which sets high standards for the visual artistry of Chinese movies, and shows the West a different side of China.
- Beijing 'hooligan' author Wang Shuo, who writes stories about fringe characters who speak in Beijing slang, has four adaptations of his novels on screen. The media calls it the 'Wang Shuo year'.
- Hachette Filipacchi starts publishing Elle magazine in China in partnership with state-owned publisher Shanghai Translation Publishing House.
Scandalous midriff exposure in Guafu Cun.
- The movie Guafu Cun (Village of Widows) hits the cinema screens, and is called the first domestic film 'not suitable for children'. This drives crowds to theatres, but the most they see is bare midriffs and sexual tension.
- What the Western media call the Tiananmen Square Massacre is known in Chinese media — when mentioned — as the Tiananmen Square Incident. Colloquially, it is called 6-4. CNN broadcasts the events live from Beijing. For the first time in history, China's internal conflicts are broadcast around the world, and recorded on video for posterity. Two CCTV presenters who report the events in the 'News Network' programme are fired soon after the event. Wu Xiaoyong, the son of a Communist Party of China Central Committee member, is removed from the English Program Department of Chinese Radio International. Qian Liren, director of the People's Daily, is also removed from his post because of reports in the paper that are sympathetic to the students.
- Tibet TV starts broadcasting via satellite. By 1999, all provinces in China will have access to different satellite channels.
- Mainland movie box-office receipts reach 2.7 billion yuan, representing 29 billion visits to the cinema. In 1999, there are only 300 million visits to the cinema — TV destroys the movie market.
- Kewang (Expectation), China's first privately produced TV series, starts airing. The series is an extraordinary hit, making the producers rich.
- The martial arts novels of Louis Cha (aka 金庸, Jin Yong) martial arts novels appear in authorized versions on the mainland for the first time. They had always been popular in Hong Kong and Taiwan but, because of magic and other elements in the stories, were considered taboo in mainland China.
- Duzhe (读者, Reader), a general interest digest magazine, becomes China's top-selling magazine. It later becomes the fourth best-selling general interest magazine in the world.
- Deng Xiaoping tours southern China, praising the entrepreneurial energy he sees and criticizing leftist elements in the Party, thus ensuring that the "reform and opening up" continues after the post-Tiananmen chill.
Zhang Yimou's Story of Qiuju
- First film festival in China, the Changchun Film Festival. Zhang Yimou's Story of Qiuju takes top prize.
- On August 8th trends group starts, launching Trends magazine, China's first fashion magazine. In April 1998, Trends becomes China's edition of Cosmopolitan in a joint venture with Hearst.
- The national English language newspaper China Daily launches a website. Despite the newspaper's turgid official style, the newspaper and its website publish Reuters and other foreign news wires' articles, which are often much racier than anything in the rest of the state-owned Chinese-language press.
- China's first 'city newspaper', reporting local matters relatively free of central government interference, is published on January 1st: Sichuan Daily publishers launch Huaxi Dushi Bao, (华西都市报, Western China City News), distributed in Chengdu, the most developed city in Sichuan Province. Similar city newspapers follow in other cities, developing a new circle of journalists who get used to reporting stories they have researched personally, rather than copied from Party directives.
- On February 1st, 'People's Republic of China Advertisement Law' is officially promulgated. (Note that the first rules about advertising were promulgated in 1982 as 'regulations': it took 13 years for those guidelines to become law.)
- Sanlian Shenghuo Zhoukan (三联生活周刊, Sanlian Life Week magazine) launches. Looking like Time or Newsweek, it becomes one of China's most influential news and opinion magazines.
Jack Ma of alibaba.com
- China's first commercial website, a directory of companies, goes online at Chinapages.com. The site was started by Jack Ma who grew it into Alibaba.com, one of the most successful Internet companies in China.
- Internet connections become widely available to the public; the service is administered by the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications. Applicants for the service are required to register with their identity card.
- Sina.com and Sohu.com, two privately-run Internet companies get funding and open for business. As the dot com boom takes off, the Internet grows as rapidly in China as it does elsewhere: suddenly there is a whole new medium that is not subject to any existing government regulations. Within a few years, ordinary Chinese people have access to all the information available on the Internet, with very few restrictions.
- The country's first Internet café opens in Shanghai.
- On July 1st, China resumes control of Hong Kong, increasing the flo of trade and information between Hong Kong, which has a thoroughly international media culture, and the mainland.
- On September 1st, Nanfang Dushi Bao (南方都市报, Southern Metropolis News) is launched by a publisher under the Guangzhou municipal government. The publication soon shakes up the Chinese newspaper business, with its absence of Party rhetoric and hard hitting news stories about corruption and other sensitive issues.
- Modern Media Group relaunches the newspaper Zhoumo Huabao (周末画报, Modern Weekly), as a glossy, tabloid format weekly news magazine that goes on to become one of the best-distributed glossy periodicals and one of the earliest to extensively feature business and cultural news from abroad in a mass publication.
Bill Clinton and Premier Zhu Rongji in 1998
- Bill Clinton visits China, the first US President to go to Beijing since 1989. The visit is a key moment in the warming of relations between the two countries, and causes enthusiasm for American investment in China in both countries.
Fans waiting to have their books signed by Cai Zhiheng
- Cai Zhiheng (nicknamed 'Scoundrel Cai') publishes a novel he had earlier serialized online; the printed version is a bestseller for two years and it touches off the careers of a number of online writers.
- Hunan TV's Huanle Zongdongyuan (欢乐总动员), a show which extends karaoke to become a television show in which guests perform songs in complete imitation of stars, becomes the year's top program.
- The first lawsuit involving Internet plagiarism hits the Chinese courts; six novelists, including former culture minister Wang Meng, sue an IT company for publishing their work without permission. The writers win the case and the court orders the firm to pay compensation.
Starbucks in the Forbidden City
- The first Starbucks opens in Beijing, bringing posh coffee culture to the capital of China. Its commercial success is made possible by the expanding middle class who can afford to pay 30 RMB (around US$4) for a latte. Soon after opening, Starbucks begins to make its contribution to visual media culture by distributing glossy magazines in Chinese and in English. Starbucks quickly spreads, adding locations around the city including a small Starbucks inside the Forbidden City which attracts criticism for “trampling on Chinese culture” and finally shuts down in 2007. Still, Starbucks thrives in China and nine years after the first store opens it boasts 55 locations in and around Beijing.
- Modern Sky Sound Magazine, a magazine that reviews independent Chinese musicians, launches signaling the beginning the commercialization of the underground rock scene in Beijing.
- Internet services that allow users to get online anonymously without any kind of registration become widespread. Chinese Internet users rapidly get used to being anonymous online. The dot com bubble bursts, but the massive increase in both Internet accessibility and Chinese online content cannot be reversed. However, the government uses increasingly sophisticated technologies to block and filter certain foreign websites, and starts regulating Chinese websites more strictly as Internet use grows.
- The Chinese government releases a statement encouraging the amalgamation of Chinese media entities in order to be better prepared for increased competition after WTO entry.
- Beijing is awarded the right to host the 2008 Olympic Games, focusing international attention on China and its place on the international stage.
- In April 2001, an American spy plane collides with a Chinese fighter jet, causing the death of the pilot. This incident causes a great deal of friction with George W. Bush's new administration. But 9-11 has a strange effect on China: because the subsequent 'War on Terror' takes the attention of American hawks away from the People's Republic, Sino-American relations become much smoother and more cordial. Good Sino-American ties mean more cultural and technological exchanges, further opening up China's information environment to the outside world.
- On November 11th, China officially joins the WTO, causing a further increase in trade as well as cultural and diplomatic exchanges.
Zhang Yimou's Hero
- Zhang Yimou’s directs the extremely successful movie Hero whose pro-authoritarian message cements a gradual shift in Zhang Yimou’s film making; his earlier films, especially Raise the Red Lantern, Red Sorgum, and To Live, made him famous in the west but were frowned upon by the Chinese authorities for exposing some of the uglier ramifications of 20th century political upheavals. Then in 1999, Zhang voluntarily pulled his two latest films from the Cannes festival claiming the west had a “serious misunderstanding” of his and other Chinese film makers because they “saw all Chinese cinema through a political lens.” Three years later he releases Hero, a martial-arts epic drama whose uncontroversial subject matter wins approval from the Chinese authorities; it is a huge success both in China and in the west where it debuts as the number one box office hit in the US.
- Actress Tang Jiali publishes a book of art nudes that stays on the bestseller lists for a year. This is the first such photo book in which the model is named, and it launches a public discussion about art and decency.
Sex blogger Mu Zimei
- Young graphic designer Sun Zhigang is arrested in Guangzhou by the police. A few days later he dies in detention. In April, the Nanfang Dushi Bao (南方都市报, Southern Metropolis News), reports the news, causing a national scandal.
- A young journalist with the online name 'Mu Zimei' (木子美, also written as muzimei and Muzi Mei) starts a blog in which she records her sexual experiences. After publishing a rather negative 'review' of her experiences with a well known rock musician, her diary becomes an overnight Internet hit, read by millions of Chinese youngsters. The print media publish reports about her, and blogging becomes a household word.
A sign posted in an elevator by building management urging people not to talk "for your own and other's safety."
- The first cases of SARS were reportedly detected in Southern China as early as November 2002, but the government failed to adequately inform the World Health Organization. When the disease spread to other countries, China came under heavy criticism from the global community. In late April 2003, the Chinese admitted that the number of SARS cases had been dramatically underreported and officially apologized for its slow reaction to the outbreak. The comparatively extensive coverage of the Avian Flu outbreak and the Sichuan earthquake suggests that SARS situation forced the government to recognize the need for more media transparency in situations of disaster and disease.
- Chinese media thoroughly and enthusiastically covers China’s first manned space flight piloted by Yang Liwei. In November, Jiang Zemin bestows the title of “Space Hero” on Yang and he receives a badge of honor during a ceremony at Beijing's Great Hall of the People.
- On November 11th, Xin Jing Bao (新京报, The Beijing News) launches. The editorial team is headed up by Cheng Yizhong, the editor who published the Sun Zhigang scandal in March. The first issue's front page features a large photograph of Bill Clinton embracing an HIV-positive boy, both a sign and a cause of increased openness about HIV and AIDS in public discourse.
- Menbox, China's first openly gay glossy magazine, starts distributing to newsstands. The magazine is produced in partnership with the prestigious Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.
- A young computer gamer named Li Hongchen wins the country's first virtual properties dispute case: the Beijing Chaoyang District People's Court orders Arctic Ice Technology Development Company, the maker of the game 'Hongyue' (Red Moon), to return game winnings, including virtual biochemical weapons, to Li, who protested after the items were stolen by a hacker. In the same month, the state-owned news agency reports that a new online game is introduced every ten days in China.
Chen Lili competing in 2004 Sichuan regional competition of Miss Universe, 2004
- Chen Lili, a post-operative transsexual from Chongqing, is given the green light to compete in the China selection pageant for the Miss Universe competition.
- An editorial appears in the conservative Jiefang Ribao (解放日报, Liberation Daily) attacking 'public intellectuals' — in other words non state-sanctioned writers and thinkers — who make public statements about China's politics and society. It is the start of a slow but steady backlash against the increased media openness seen during 2004.
- The advertising operations of the state-owned Beijing Youth Daily Newspaper Group are listed on Hong Kong's stock market as Beijing Media Corporation. This is the first such listing of a mainland media company.
- CCTV launches pan-Asian satellite channel, hoping to cater for growing overseas demand for information about China.
- China's National People's Congress proposes a bill to ban lip-synching at pop music concerts.
- University authorities at the prestigious Peking and Tsinghua Universities are ordered to stop open access to the two universities' Internet forums (or BBS). These forums had been open to the public and were often host to freewheeling discussions about society and politics.
- Real estate tycoon Pan Shiyi starts a blog, becoming the first of many celebrities to start blogs in 2005 and early 2006.
The Super Voice Girls
- Provincial TV station Hunan TV's hit show Chaoji Nusheng (超级女声, Super Girls) broadcasts the final, knockout competition. The show is a nationwide hit, drawing advertisers away from the stodgier programs on CCTV.
- The government announces that the death tolls from natural disasters will no longer be regarded as a state secret, ending an official policy of secrecy about disasters that has been in place since 1949.
- The top three editors of Xin Jing Bao (新京报, The Beijing News) are removed from their posts, apparently on orders from the government, because of reports in the newspaper about riots in rural areas. Chinese blogger Michael Anti writes about the dismissal, urging a boycott of the newspaper. The blog is hosted on Microsoft's MSN Spaces; Microsoft receives an official order from the government requesting that they remove the blog. They comply.
- The editor of Bing Dian (冰点, Freezing Point) supplement to the China Youth Daily, is removed from his position after authorities object to the tone and content of the supplement, in particular to one article calling for the revision of Chinese high school history text books. The editor accepts interviews from the foreign press, and writes an openly-circulated letter criticizing the stifling of discussion.
Memoirs of a Geisha
- Memoirs of a Geisha, starring Chinese actress Zhang Ziyi who plays a Japanese Geisha, triggers a hypernationalist backlash on the blogosphere. Sensitive to overly enthusiastic anti-japanese sentiment, Beijing bans the movie in January demonstrating the increasing influence of Chinese bloggers and discussion forums.
- Some government officials begin personal blogs drawing comments from the public that would never make it into traditional media. Among the bloggers are both People's Representatives and members of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference or CPPCC.
Newsweek Cover 2006
- Soon after Newsweek magazine's Asian edition features Chinese bloggers on its cover with the headline 'Beijing vs. Bloggers', one of the bloggers featured in the article called Massage Milk stages a 'government shutdown' of his blog. The Western media report it, after which the blogger reveals the shutdown to be a hoax, a prank played on Western media in revenge for their 'obsession' with the censorship issue.
- The Rolling Stones become the world’s first mega-band to perform in China. Many will follow in their footsteps.
- Rupert Murdock stuns the media world by ditching most of his stake in Hong-Kong based Phoenix TV. Rupert drops from 38% control of Phoenix to 18% indicated that a recent string of failures has forced him to scale back his dream of extending his broadcast empire to China.
- A new law is issued aimed at controlling breaking news coverage. The law says that after an emergency or crisis in society, the government can enforce strict measures. If news media report breaking news on the handling of emergencies without authorization, or report false news, they could be fined between RMB 50,000 and RMB 100,000.
- A Chinese cop starts what the People's Daily calls the country's first “police blog”. The police blog is an overnight hit, claiming more than one million visitors in its first two months.
Jiang Zemin and his best selling Collected Works
- Queues form at bookstores around China as The Selected Works of Jiang Zemin by China’s former President, go on sale. Branches of the government-run Xinhua Bookstore chain truck in tens of thousands of copies to fill their shelves on the first day of its publication.
- Early unpublished poems by Zhao Lihua, the 40-something poet from Hebei who edits the Journal of Selected Poetry, surface on the internet. Since Zhao's bio lists her as a "nationally-ranked poet", the naivety and awkwardness of some of the poems make them ready targets for attacks on high culture, self-styled intellectuals, and the national cultural apparatus. Parodies of the poems proliferate and eventually come to be known as "Pear Blossom Poetry."
Time Magazine’s person of the year, 2006: You.
- Time Magazine’s names "you" as person of the year for 2006. They explain: "Yes, you. You control the Information Age. Welcome to your world." The article includes profiles of 15 citizens—including a French rapper, a relentless reviewer and a real life lonely girl—of the new digital democracy. One of the citizen’s profiled is Wang Xiaofeng, a Chinese blogger, who is used to highlighting how citizen bloggers are changing the way information can be controlled in China.
- At the two-day Fourth Annual Forum on Chinese Cultural Industries held at Peking University, General Administration of Press and Publicaiton vice-director Liu Binjie laments the race toward the bottom in contemporary culture. He said the standard for judging whether a cultural work or action is or is not cultural garbage lies in whether it will cause harm to society and posterity. The statements at the conference express a new resolve in the administration to pass regulations aimed at reversing the trend toward “cultural garbage” manufactured under the auspices of the cultural industries.
- According to statistics from China's telecoms regulator MII (Ministry of Information Industry), there are over 426 million mobile phone users in China, the biggest user group in the whole world.
UNICEF’s goodwill ambassador Mia Farrow
- Mia Farrow, UNICEF’s goodwill ambassador, calls the 2008 Beijing Olympics the “Genocide Olympics” because of China’s sale of weapons to Sudan while the Sudanese government supported soldiers carrying out genocide in the Darfur region. When Beijing reverses it stance later in the year and urges Sudan to accept U.N. peacekeepers in Darfur, The New York Times credits Farrow with the reversal.
- Sina.com opens a special minisite about a fan of pop star Andy Lau whose father committed suicide. The attitude is reminiscent of a British tabloid newspaper: condemning an event while enjoying all the salacious details of the story, and the traffic it brings to their website.
’Nail house’ in Chongqing
- The term 'nail house' refers to a house whose owners refuse to move out to make way for redevelopment. One ‘nail house’ in Chongqing rises rapidly to national fame largely because dramatic pictures spread over the internet. In April, the residents succumbed to the developers and the iconic ‘nail house’ is finally torn down.
Virginia Tech shooter Seung-Hui Cho
- In the wake of the Virginia Tech Shootings, the largest incident of mass murder in the history of the US, rumors that the killer is Chinese cause wide spread anxiety that the incident might spark anti-Chinese sentiment. Two threads on Netease, a popular web forum in China, garner over 10,000 comments apiece within the first 24 hour.
- A Shanghainese man sues his Internet connection provider China Telecom because his U.S. hosted website was blocked, and China Telecom will not or cannot explain to him why. He does not win the case in court, but his website is unblocked.
Ang Lee’s Lust, Caution
- Beijing TV airs a story about a restaurant that served steamed buns (baozi) made with cardboard instead of pork to save money. Soon after, Beijing TV issued a retraction and apology — the report had apparently been staged. But many people in Beijing believed that that the news about the cardboard buns story being fake was itself fake. The controversy continues as people question the authenticity of an apology reportedly written by the journalist himself. The whole incident reveals a severe crisis of trust in China as people struggle to decide what sources of information can be trusted to tell the truth.
- Ang Lee's Lust, Caution is censored for the mainland market, with thirteen minutes of explicit footage deleted. Dong Yanbin, a PhD student at the China University of Politics and Law, sues UME International Cineplex and SARFT over their choice to edit Lust, Caution. This is the first attempt at a lawsuit of this kind.
Cartoon Spoof of “Very Violent, Very Yellow” girl
- The catch-phrase "Very yellow, very violent" (很黄很暴力) circulates throughout the web and is dubbed the China first online meme of 2008. The meme originated in a CCTV broadcast featuring an interview with a middle-school student about the dangers of online pornography; she said she went online to look for information and found a website that was "very yellow, very violent." The phrase draws ridicule and becomes the subject of spoofs targeted at CCTV and the national anti-pornography campaign.
- Steven Spielberg, who had been invited to be the artistic director of the Beijing Olympics and was working on the video to be shown at the closing ceremony, resigns from his position in protest of China’s economic involvement in Sudan. China reacts by refusing to release his subsequent movies in theaters, and netizens encourage a boycott on buying even bootlegged copy of his earlier movies.
Chinese angry with perceived western media bias
- A peaceful protest by dissatisfied Tibetan monks in Lhasa devolves into a riot of Tibetan citizens; rioters target Han Chinese and their property. Riot police are sent in to quell the violence. Western media covers the incident as yet more evidence of Chinese “cultural genocide” of ethnic Tibets; Chinese media depicts the incident as evidence of the Dalai Lama’s “clique” seditious attempts to thwart Chinese authority. These two interpretations – that of the western and Chinese media – are so far apart that the controversy ignites an international online propaganda war. Angry Chinese citizens condemn western media, beginning “anti-CNN” campaigns and websites, and propose boycotts. Meanwhile, as the Olympic torch makes it was through Paris, London, and San Francisco it becomes a focal point for the controversy. Supporters of Tibetans hold “Free Tibet!” signs along the torch route soon attracting droves of Chinese sympathizers to hold “Go China!” posters.
A building in Dujiangyan, a city near Chengdu, destroyed by the earthquake.
- On May 12th, a massive and devastating earthquake hits Sichuan claiming 70,000 lives and leaving 5 million homeless. The government initially directs journalists not to travel to Sichuan, but the directive is universally ignored. In the first two weeks after the quake, journalists travel freely through the area with government permission. Earthquake coverage dominates every form of media in China. Sympathy for China and admiration of the government’s quick response almost entirely subsumes the Tibetan controversy in domestic and international media. About a week and a half after the earthquake, disproportionate numbers of school children killed in the collapse of poorly constructed schools in some areas spark questions of local government corruption and cause some grieving parents to stage protests. As these concerns begin to surface, the government once again begins to assert control over earthquake coverage and access to affected areas becomes increasingly difficult. Still, Chinese anger is generally directed at local government officials, rather than the central government.
- A possible connection between the suicide of a young girl and local police sparks a riot in Weng’an including over 30,000 people; cars are burned, police attacked, government buildings sacked. The government promptly holds a press conference, mainstream Chinese media reports the riots, and fairly open discussion is allowed to remain on government run news sites like Xinhua. On the other hand, discussion of the riots on popular public forums is tightly censored. This censorship angers many netizens and they begin to refer to “push-ups” to indicate the Weng’an riots (one of the suicidal girl’s friends was doing push-ups when she jumped off a bridge.) When the word "push-up" begins to draw online censorship, whole websites are set up devoted to push-ups, and netizens fill forums with references to push-ups in protest.
- On July 1st, Yang Jia, a 28 years old Beijing resident, charged into a local police station in Zhabei, Shanghai and murdered six police officers. Speculations and rumors about the murderer's motive abound on the Internet after the grisly and bizarre murder spree. As dust settled, it turned out that Yang was a victim of police brutality who sought revenge after being denied of justice. The public generally take a degree of sympathy in Yang and some even see him as a hero. On November 26, Yang was executed.
- The opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympic Games, which took place in Beijing's National Stadium on August 8th, turned out to be massive and spectacular, despite many thought it would be overshadowed by the Tibetan riot and a deadly earthquake. As much as the show would be remembered for its grandness, it has its fair share of letdown: Lin Miaoke, a nine-year old who performed "Ode to the Motherland" as China's flag was paraded into the Stadium, was found later only lip-syncing. Also, part of the fireworks viewers saw on television was actually pre-recorded due to the poor visibility of air that night.
Sanlu's tainted baby formula
- Kidney stone, a disease which is extremely rare among the newly born babies, were found in thousands of them, and claimed at least six lives. The culprit was found out to be a Sanlu brand baby formula, which contained dangerous level of a chemical called melamine. After its initial attempt to cover things up failed, Sanlu apologized and announced a recall of its products. All these came too late, the public's anger and anguish finally brought the downfall of the quite established dairy brand.
Corrupt reporters are being paid
- After an accident killed a coal miner in Hongdong, Shanxi Province, journalists flocked to the coal mine, not to report, but to be bribed. In exchange, the mine would have their promise not to break the news to the media. The scene of journalists lining up for bribe money was captured on camera by a man named Dai Xiaojun. He posted the photos to various Internet forums and eventually caught the attention of China Youth Daily, which ran a feature story in its October 27 issue.
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Books on China
The Eurasian Face
: Blacksmith Books, a publishing house in Hong Kong, is behind The Eurasian Face
, a collection of photographs by Kirsteen Zimmern. Below is an excerpt from the series:
Big in China
: An adapted excerpt from Big In China: My Unlikely Adventures Raising A Family, Playing The Blues and Becoming A Star in China
, just published this month. Author Alan Paul
tells the story of arriving in Beijing as a trailing spouse, starting a blues band, raising kids and trying to make sense of China.
Pallavi Aiyar's Chinese Whiskers
: Pallavi Aiyar's first novel, Chinese Whiskers
, a modern fable set in contemporary Beijing, will be published in January 2011. Aiyar currently lives in Brussels where she writes about Europe for the Business Standard
. Below she gives permissions for an excerpt.
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+ Religion and government in an uneasy mix
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+ David Moser on Mao impersonators
(2004.10): I first became aware of this phenomenon in 1992 when I turned on a Beijing TV variety show and was jolted by the sight of "Mao Zedong" and "Zhou Enlai" playing a game of ping pong. They both gave short, rousing speeches, and then were reverently interviewed by the emcee, who thanked them profusely for taking time off from their governmental duties to appear on the show.
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