Document reveals sweeping effort to censor political content

Source: Toronto Globe and Mail (6/3/18)
Unpublished Chinese censorship document reveals sweeping effort to eradicate online political content
By NATHAN VANDERKLIPPE, ASIA CORRESPONDENT

Chinese authorities have tightened their grip on the country’s online broadcasting platforms, banning a long list of content – everything from tattoos to religious proselytizing, violations of “mainstream values,” flirtatious dancing, images of leaders and Western political critiques – as the government seeks to stamp out any venue that could be used for dissent or behaviour it considers obscene, according to an unpublished censorship directive obtained by The Globe and Mail.

The meteoric growth of online video services in China has offered a vibrant venue for creativity and, occasionally, obscenity and political protest – unleashing a daily riptide of user-made cat videos, pranks and glimpses of everyday life. Hundreds of millions of people in China watch short video clips and live-stream video every month. Continue reading

Bi Zhifei defends “worst film on earth”

Source: Sup China (5/31/18)
Director Stubbornly Defends The Worst Film On Earth
By Jiayun Feng

Director Bi Zhifei 毕志飞, 39 years old, needs you to know that by no means is he getting over his debut film Pure Hearts: Into Chinese Showbiz 纯洁心灵, which was a failure, both critically and commercially. You can see nearly 50,000 negative reviews of the film on Douban.com (in Chinese), one of China’s biggest and most trusted movie review and culture websites.

The reviews on global movie rating site IMDB.com are no better: “Beyond description awful,” “Awkwardly amateur and terrible,” and “The worst film on Earth” are the top three comments. Continue reading

Song King

New Publication
Song King: Connecting People, Places, and Past in Contemporary China
Author: Gibbs, Levi S.
University of Hawai’i Press, 2018

When itinerant singers from China’s countryside become iconic artists, worlds collide. The lives and performances of these representative singers become sites for conversations between the rural and urban, local and national, folk and elite, and traditional and modern. In Song King: Connecting People, Places, and Past in Contemporary China, Levi S. Gibbs examines the life and performances of “Folksong King of Western China” Wang Xiangrong (b. 1952) and explores how itinerant performers come to serve as representative symbols straddling different groups, connecting diverse audiences, and shifting between amorphous, place-based local, regional, and national identities. Moving from place to place, these border walkers embody connections between a range of localities, presenting audiences with traditional, modern, rural, and urban identities among which to continually reposition themselves in an evolving world. Continue reading

Patriotic writer draws ire

Source: Sup China (5/29/18)
Patriotic Chinese Writer Draws Ire After Trying To Enroll Her Kid At An American School
By CHAUNCEY JUNG

Yuan Xiaoliang, from her Weibo account

Yuan Xiaoliang 袁小靓 made a name for herself by bashing democracy. In 2013, she called India a nation “raped” by democracy, and said Chinese fans of Apple products were American “slaves.” A year later, she wrote, “Despite how good America is, it is someone else’s motherland. No matter how bad a mother China is, it is my home. I don’t need a reason to love her and protect her, yet there are reasons aplenty.”

Her pro-China stances on social media have been widely cited by Chinese state media. In an article published on guancha.cn in 2012, Yuan called herself the “chairwoman” of the 50-Cent Party — a moniker given to those who voice online support for the Chinese Communist Party and China in general. (For what it’s worth, Yuan also claimed to have not made a cent from the Chinese government.) Continue reading

China shutters Utopia

Source: China Media Project (5/23/18)
China Shutters Top Leftist Website
By David Bandurski

China Shutters Top Leftist Website

One key characteristic of Xi Jinping’s “New Era” has been the progressive elimination of all forms of ideological variance within the Party. Growing centralization of Party power has come with a pronounced narrowing of the discourse spectrum. Everyone must converge at the center — or remain silent.

Now comes the news, not altogether surprising, that Utopia, the leftist website espousing that “our only firm belief is in Mao Zedong Thought,” could be shuttered indefinitely. Continue reading

Women’s favorite Internet works

Source:Global Times (4/23/18)
Women’s favorite Internet works

Gu Jianyu Photo: Courtesy of China Literature

What books she likes to read, what TV dramas she likes to watch, what movies she likes to talk about on her WeChat Moments page or on Sina Weibo… Women are not just initiators of hot social topics, but also the driving force behind a plethora of IPs ranging from TV series and movies to books. Their hobbies also have a major impact on what IPs are adapted to other mediums.

Considering this massive influence, China Literature, one of the biggest Internet publishers in China, released a list of the 10 most popular Internet literature works among women in China at an IP salon on Wednesday. Continue reading

Classrooms monitor facial expressions

Source: Sup China (5/16/18)
No Sleeping In Class: Chinese High School Installs Cameras To Monitor Student Facial Expressions
By JIAYUN FENG

A network of surveillance cameras backed by facial-recognition technology has been introduced to every classroom at a high school in Hangzhou, Zhejiang Province. Praised by the school’s principal as “insightful eyes,” the cameras are capable of capturing and analyzing students’ body movements and facial expressions during class, offering teachers real-time feedback on how attentive their students are.

According to Sina News (in Chinese), with the newly installed cameras that can tell who might be discreetly taking a nap, students at Hangzhou No. 11 High School are more focused in class than ever. “Before the introduction of these cameras, I sometimes took naps or did other stuff while having classes that I don’t like,” one student told reporters, adding that his classmates all felt the same. “But now, I always feel there are mysterious eyes staring at me, so I don’t dare do things that are unrelated to class anymore.” Continue reading

Building the Party’s Internet

Source: China Media Project (5/11/18)
BUILDING THE PARTY’S INTERNET
by David Bandurski

Building the Party’s Internet

In a ceremony in Beijing earlier this week, the director of the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC), Xu Lin (徐麟), presided over the inauguration of the China Federation of Internet Societies (CFIS), a broad internet industry grouping whose stated purpose is to “promote the development of Party organizations in the industry.” The federation’s establishment is a clear sign of the growing involvement of the Chinese Communist Party in private internet firms, and further reflection of the broader trend of closer Party governance and scrutiny of all forms of media.

Prominent industry leaders, including Tencent chairman Pony Ma, Alibaba’s founder Jack Ma and Baidu chairman Robin Li, have been appointed as vice presidents of the new federation. Continue reading

Marx Got It Right (1)

Marx is indeed still relevant in China.  R. D. Laing offered an elegant summary of his most pertinent doctrine:

Marx used the concept of mystification to mean a plausible misrepresentation of what is going on (process) or what is being done (praxis) in the service of the interests of one socioeconomic class (the exploiters) over or against another class (the exploited).

By representing forms of exploitation as forms of benevolence, the exploiters bemuse the exploited into feeling at one with their exploiters, or into feeling gratitude for what (unrealized by them) is their exploitation, and, not least, into feeling bad or mad even to think of rebellion.

A. E. Clark <aec@raggedbanner.com>

Brain-reading technology

Source: SCMP (4/29/18)
‘Forget the Facebook leak’: China is mining data directly from workers’ brains on an industrial scale
Government-backed surveillance projects are deploying brain-reading technology to detect changes in emotional states in employees on the production line, the military and at the helm of high-speed trains
By Stephen Chen

Deayea, a technology company in Shanghai, says its brain monitoring devices are worn regularly by train drivers working on the Beijing-Shanghai high-speed rail line. Photo: Deayea Technology

On the surface, the production lines at Hangzhou Zhongheng Electric look like any other.

Workers outfitted in uniforms staff lines producing sophisticated equipment for telecommunication and other industrial sectors.

But there’s one big difference – the workers wear caps to monitor their brainwaves, data that management then uses to adjust the pace of production and redesign workflows, according to the company. Continue reading

People’s Republic of Desire

Source: Slate (4/25/18)
A Documentary Reveals the Dangerous Fickleness of Online Fame in China
In The People’s Republic of Desire, Hao Wu films the lonely shadows where the lines between online and offline dissolve.
By CHRISTINA LARSON

“Should I be ashamed? How about you?” The 21-year-old woman stares into her webcam, eyes flat under heavy false eyelashes and her long hair parted, half spilling over her left shoulder. “You self-righteous douchebags!”

It’s taken Shen Man just three years to amass a following of 5 million fans by singing, chatting, and flirting online as a hostess on the Chinese livestreaming platform YY. With large eyes, porcelain skin, and a tapered chin, Shen Man matches the modern Chinese ideal of doll-like beauty. Her voice is usually soft, almost cooing. She’s had plastic surgery to augment her nose, eyelids, temples, and chin, and been professionally coached in how, precisely, to tilt her head and lilt her voice—all preparation to become a virtual girlfriend to lonely hearts across China. Continue reading

Tech shame in the new era

Source: China Media Project (4/11/018)
TECH SHAME IN THE “NEW ERA”
By David Bandurski

Tech Shame in the “New Era”

Zhang Yiming, the founder and CEO of Toutiao.

When does a corporate apology become a political self-confession, or jiantao (检讨), an act of submission not to social mores and concerns, but to those in power? The line can certainly blur in China. But the public apology today from Zhang Yiming (张一鸣), the founder and CEO of one of China’s leading tech-based news and information platforms, crosses deep into the territory of political abjection.

Zhang’s apology, posted to WeChat at around 4 AM Beijing time, addressed recent criticism aired through the state-run China Central Television and other official media of Jinri Toutiao, or “Toutiao” — a platform for content creation and aggregation that makes use of algorithms to customize user experience. Critical official coverage of alleged content violations on the platform was followed by a notice on April 4 from the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film, and Television (SAPPRFT), in which the agency said Toutiao and another service providing live-streaming, Kuaishou, would be subject to “rectification measures.” Continue reading

China’s propaganda blitz

Source: Foreign Policy (4/23/18)
China’s $6 Billion Propaganda Blitz Is a Snooze
Beijing’s propaganda works at home, but it can’t compete globally.
BY HILTON YIP

A man walks past a roadside poster of Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing, on Oct. 24, 2017. (Greg Baker/AFP/Getty Images)

A man walks past a roadside poster of Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing, on Oct. 24, 2017. (Greg Baker/AFP/Getty Images)

In a world on the brink of chaos, China has decided that what people everywhere need is more good news — as long as it’s about China. China is creating a giant media outlet called Voice of China, combining the three state television and radio broadcasters aimed at overseas audiences: China Global Television Network, China Radio International, and China National Radio. The hope is that by combining resources and output, China will have a broader platform to spread its message overseas.

But will Voice of China succeed in boosting China’s international image, especially given the dubious performance of previous global state media pushes? Continue reading

Weibo reverses gay content ban (1)

Source: Sup China (4/16/18)
Weibo revokes ban on homosexual content after uproar
By Jiayun Feng, Jeremy Goldkorn

A rare piece of good news for freedom of expression in China: Sina Weibo, confronting a colossal backlash from the public following its ban on homosexual content issued last Friday, announced today that it had reversed the decision, limiting the cleanup campaign to only pornographic and violent comics and games.

“We won’t target gay content anymore in this cleanup of games and anime,” the Weibo administration announced (in Chinese) on April 16, a mere three days after the initial ban was issued. “Instead, we’ll focus on content with pornographic and violent themes. Thank you for your discussions and suggestions.”

The reversal constituted a rare case in the history of Weibo, one of the biggest and most popular social media platforms in China: It is highly unusual to lift censorship of a certain topic in direct response to user feedback. The decision also marked an unprecedented triumph for the gay community in China. Continue reading

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