China: February 2008 Archives

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for cbc-communists.jpgFollowing a post last week on the CBC's website being blocked in China, we've discovered a thing or two that has been going on behind the scenes.

In early November, the CBC was accused of pulling Beyond the Red Wall, a controversial documentary on the Falun Gong movement, because of pressure from the Chinese government.

The CBC denied the claim. CBC spokesperson Jeff Keay said the Chinese embassy in Ottawa and consulate in Toronto had contacted the CBC about the airing of the documentary. Keay also offered that quality was an issue:

We want to ... make sure it's an absolutely rigorous piece of work because it's become clear over the past 24 to 36 hours that there's a lot of interest in the thing...We want to make sure it's a solid piece of work that will stand up to intense scrutiny.

Instead, with an eye to the iffy situation in Pakistan, a profile on Musharraf was rerun.

But to the surprise of some, Beyond the Red Wall was broadcast on November 20th, 2007. Reports suggest minor changes had been made to the original, all approved by producer/director/writer Peter Rowe.

This very well may be one of the reasons the net nanny has wrapped its quieting arms around the CBC. It has certainly generated a lot more publicity as a result. Says Rowe: "and I suspect the Chinese now wish they'd never raised the issue."

Also worth noting is that Canamedia pulled Beyond the Red Wall from YouTube due to copyright claims.

Zhongnanhai (the blog) has been hearing many different versions of the changes that are occuring inside Zhongnanhai (the government compound).

We have speculated on this blog about the political future of one high profile official, and we are still waiting to hear official word. That being said, a number of other rumors are circulating this week, as China's leadership meets behind closed doors until Wednesday. This three day session aims at hammering out the details ahead of the National People's Congress, which opens on March 20 (Update: As Xinhua has confirmed, the opening date for the NPC is March 5). The new recruits to the Standing Committee of the Politburo will receive their portfolios, and several other staffing announcements will be made on that day.

This blog is unwilling to stake its reputation (what little of one we may have) on these rumors, although, shall we say, we're "confident" that we're right. That being said, our sources tell us "anything can change" when it comes to Chinese politics.

So let's begin the guessing, and compare notes following the formal announcements on March 5:

  • Wang Qishan, the former mayor of Beijing who stepped down last year, will become the Vice-Premier in charge of the economy.
  • Hui Liangyu will return to the fold, and become a Vice-Premier.
  • Xi Jinping, the annointed successor to Hu Jintao, will take over Zeng Qinghong's former role.

More details will be posted as it leaks out of this week's meeting.

It truly aggravates me when I see guys like Steven Spielberg waxing on about how he finds it his moral duty to help the people of Darfur by pulling out of the Olympics. It is pure, sanctimonious crap! I have no doubt that Mr. Spielberg is a very intelligent man. Having seen many of his films, I can tell that there is something special about this man's ability to make a movie. And that's the point. If he really wants to help the people of Darfur, he should making a movie about the genocide that's taking place there, and giving people insight about the wrongs that are taking place in that region of Sudan. I'm tired of guys like Spielberg, Mia Farrow and Bono sitting on their high horses and quarterbacking some kind of political grass-roots action against the flavor-of-the-month cause. If you really want to make a political difference, do like Reagan and Schwartzenegger did, which is actually put yourself up for election so you can actually enact political change, rather pulling half-baked PR stunts like pulling out of the Olympics, which isn't going to effect the overall look of the Games here in Beijing this summer, and quite frankly, isn't going to make one lick of difference when it comes to getting China onboard the Darfur situation more than it is already.

Don't get me wrong. I do sometimes enjoy when this government is given a poke in the eye, like, for example, when the WTO rules that it was completely off base in its auto parts dispute with the United States, Canada and the European Union. But I could give a tinker's damn about Spielberg's involvement in the Olympics, and I don't think anyone else outside of a few self-righteous activists and the media care much either. And don't think for a minute that Mr. Spielberg made this move out of any true moral decision. He is basically hedging his bets. He realizes that if he goes ahead with his efforts in Beijing this summer, the same people who have rushed to applaud his decision to pull out would likely have turned on him and put pressure on people in the United States and elsewhere to boycott his films. And, unfortunately, these same zealots have much more influence over the mass of undereducated Americans then the people they elect to lead them.

So good luck trying to get one of your films screened in China anytime soon Mr. Spielberg! Oh, and for the record, I do believe that China should be doing more to stop the genocide in Darfur, and it will take politicians to make that happen!

I have to admit that I am a staunch opponent of so-called 'reality' television. If I want reality, I'll go outside for a walk and watch people interacting with one another. That's reality. But it is a disturbingly popular trend. Since the launch in the United States of the very popular TV series 'Survivor,' numerous other 'reality' television shows have since popped up, including many music-based programs like American Idol and the Chinese versions of the show, which include Super Girls and last year's male version, Happy Boy. And as wildly popular as Happy Boy was amongst Chinese viewers, I regret to inform you (actually, I relish in it) that the program was rigged! This revelation comes from one of the judges on the program, Chinese award-winning rock star Zheng Jun.

On January 30th of this year, Zheng Jun appeared on the China Radio International bilingual music program The Pulse hosted by my friends and colleagues Mr. Rich and Maddy and was asked about his experience on the program. Here is the transcript of what Zheng Jun revealed:

Maddy: But since you have the power to choose [the winner of the program], but you leave the show.
Zheng Jun: No no no no. When I stay there [on the program] the leader of the TV station, the director they gonna contact you before the show and decide who should be the winner.
Mr. Rich: Really?
Maddy: Really?
Zheng Jun: So we [the directors of Super Boy] want to you just think about it. Because we [the directors] think this can make the show better.
Mr. Rich: I see. So it can make people go crazy for the ratings.
Zheng Jun: Cause this guy maybe looks better, or this guy...people think this guy is a good dancer or something. This guy is a good musician or song writer, but this guy we think is boring...stupid or boring. So the director, they want you to do what they want you to do. So we always fighting during the show cause we three judges we decide this guy should be the winner, but then we gave this note to them then they changed it.
Mr. Rich: Right.
Zheng Jun: Then they changed the name, then they changed it again! Then they changed it again!
Maddy: They can make up their minds either!
Zheng Jun: Finally they changed it again.
Mr. Rich: Right
Zheng Jun: And finally we were always fighting.
Mr. Rich: This is crazy!
Zheng Jun: This is crazy! Cause it's not...
Mr. Rich: It's not fair!
Zheng Jun: It's not fair. It's a game, but it's not a fair game.

So, as you can see by Zheng Jun's revelation, the 2007 Super Boy competition was nothing of the sort!

The UK Daily Mail is out with a provocative story that claims all athletes attending the upcoming Bejing Olympics will be forced to sign a contact banning them from making any negative comments about the government. The move has already rekindled memories of the English team doing the Nazi salute at the 1936 games in Berlin.

Should a competitor agree to the clause but then speak their mind about China, they will be put on the next plane home.
The clause, in section 4 of the contract, simply states: "[Athletes] are not to comment on any politically sensitive issues."
It then refers competitors to Section 51 of the International Olympic Committee charter, which "provides for no kind of demonstration, or political, religious or racial propaganda in the Olympic sites, venues or other areas".

The move by the Chinese authorities is shortsighted at best, and will bring increased negative coverage at worst. Already, by making athletes sign the contact, negative stories will be written in newspapers and blogs, drawing attention to China's lack of freedom of speech and authoritarian government; surely the Chinese authorities would rather foreign press focus on the venues and athletes. And really, at the end of the day, will the contracts actually work? We'll have no way of knowing for sure, but my guess is this does far more harm than good. Now, people will be watching extra carefully to see who breaks the contract, and what the fallout will be.

China claims to want an open Olympics, and this is a far cry from that goal. It must understand that forcing these contracts on athletes plays into the hands of their critics, and confirms their already negative stereotypes.

There's no doubt that this week's storms across China have made big news abroad. CNN and BBC led with the story for several days last week, when the storms seemed to be at their worst.

As usual, I'm on vacation. I seem to always be on vacation when big news breaks, which seems to be the curse of this particular journalist. When the Premier of British Columbia, my home province, was arrested for drunk driving while in Hawaii, I found out from an airport television in Toronto while en route to Charleston, West Virginia (why I was going to West Virginia is a story for another day). When anti-Japanese riots broke out in Beijing and Shanghai in the spring of 2005, I was meeting a long-time friend in Hong Kong for a mini-vacation. Now, when the world's news focus is on China, I'm somewhere in SE Asia.

Perhaps, for most people, avoiding a harsh winter storm is a good thing. But I'm a news guy, and I like to be around news. So from that perspective, being isolated on a cruise ship when exciting news needs to be reported is a tough break. Fortunately, Zhongnanhai's very own Chris Chaplin was contacted by the BBC to find someone to speak on the calamity in Guangzhou. The photos of up to 800,000 people crowded at the train station were chilling. The quotes from some migrant workers even moreso, as one particular man called the government "illigitimate", among other things that I'm sure Hu Jintao didn't appreciate.

What was more startling from me, observing from afar, is how the storms and crowds didn't seem to affect Beijing. Much of the reporting from both BBC and CNN (and the newspaper wire services) were out of Guangzhou, with CNN having an additional reporter in Nanjing. When I had the rare opportunity to go online, most friends and colleagues in Beijing said the reporting was overblown, and most of the trouble affected the south anyway. Perhaps this is a testament to China's vast size (and how, as I've written before, the south is simply outside of Beijing's orbit).

As I write this, I am sitting on a beachfront patio in Nha Trang, Vietnam, a place that anybody who loves beaches must surely visit. I will arrive in Hong Kong on the 8th. With any luck, I'll be able to secure a flight from south to north -- so here's hoping the weather story is long dead by the time we dock in Asia's World City.

About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the China category from February 2008.

China: January 2008 is the previous archive.

China: March 2008 is the next archive.

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