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May 24, 2005

Chinese Bloggers.

Kristoff has a piece in the NY Times about the changes that blogs and Citizen Journalists are bringing to China. No mention of pie but this is interesting:

The collision between the Internet and Chinese authorities is one of the grand wrestling matches of history, visible in part at www.yuluncn.com.

That's the Web site of a self-appointed journalist named Li Xinde. He made a modest fortune selling Chinese medicine around the country, and now he's started the Chinese Public Opinion Surveillance Net - one of four million blogs in China.

Mr. Li travels around China with an I.B.M. laptop and a digital camera, investigating cases of official wrongdoing. Then he writes about them on his Web site and skips town before the local authorities can arrest him.

His biggest case so far involved a deputy mayor of Jining who is accused of stealing more than $400,000 and operating like a warlord. One of the deputy mayor's victims was a businesswoman whom he allegedly harassed and tried to kidnap.

Mr. Li's Web site published an investigative report, including a series of photos showing the deputy mayor kneeling and crying, apparently begging not to be reported to the police. The photos caused a sensation, and the deputy mayor was soon arrested.

Another of Mr. Li's campaigns involved a young peasant woman who was kidnapped by family planning officials, imprisoned and forcibly fitted with an IUD. Embarrassed by the reports, the authorities sent the officials responsible to jail for a year.

I think this ties in neatly with what Roger, Insta, Winds of Change and the others want to do at Pajama Media. It also shows what will be required for it to really work in bringing the powers that be to account, in that task of speaking truth to power.

Sure, the internet, laptops, digital cameras all make it possible in a technological sense, but then so did the printing press and cheap pamphleteering make Tom Paine’s campaigning possible. I’m not trying to diminish the importance of the technology, rather I want to point to the thing that is required on top of the technology...and I’m not trying to cast aspertions on Mr. Li’s antecendents...and that is an ’ornery bastard actually controlling what the technology is pointed at.

In one sense it doesn’t actually matter what technology is used, however much easier it makes it to get the results out and viewed by the adoring masses, if the vital part of the system gets missed: objectionable people asking impudent questions and insisting upon an answer.

One example of what I mean is this half remembered exchange in the House of Commons (perhaps a reader can help me nail it down and source it? Should be in Hansard).

MP: Could the Minister confirm that Russia is now considered to be an ally of this country?

Minister:  That is indeed correct and we look forward to many years of active so-operation with our Russian friends.

MP: Could the Minister reveal whether this friendship extends to our having changed the targetting of our nuclear missles in the Trident submarines?

Minister: Ummm.

Another example might be Peter Tatchell. I’ve got all sorts of disagreements with his basic outlook on life, find many of his campaigns to be objectionable even, but as I’ve said before, there is also something hugely admirable about the man. At one point he actually tried to make a citizen’s arrest of Comrade Bob Mugabe, risking a severe beating at the hands of his minders. (He doesn’t run a blog but perhaps Pajama would like to ask him to join?)

Both Mr Li and Peter Tatchell  have what it will take to make this new citizen’s journalism work to its full potential. The obstinacy,  pure bloody mindedness, required to get right up the noses of those in power.

Umm, does anyone know how I can send a pie to China?

May 24, 2005 in Weblogs | Permalink


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As a note to Tim Worstall: the major media in this country is in no way comparable to the communist Chinese government. Kristof's article deserves a read, but only if you can keep your blog penis in your pants long... [Read More]

Tracked on May 24, 2005 4:21:57 PM


Good stuff. I linked to the Kristoff piece last night and used it to vent on one of my obsessions: The Chinese government is the greatest threat to peace, stability, and international prosperity in the world today. Day-in and day-out, the US and the rest of the world is helping a despotic regime build its military and economic power to the detriment of the rest of the world.

It's true, as many assert, that economic integration and the Internet may eventually spell despotism's doom in China. But nobody has told Mr. Hu that yet. He and his regime must be contained!

Posted by: Mark | May 24, 2005 1:23:14 PM


I think you (and Nick and Glenn) are awfully optimistic about this story. The thing I noticed is that Li Xinde's successes depend on the national authorities cracking down on the corrupt local officials. If he were to blog about corruption on the national level, I don't see anything that would prevent him from disappearing.

The Tom Paine analogy is interesting, and I'm certainly no expert on colonial American pamphlets, but... Tom Paine wasn't writing to convince the Crown to reform itself, was he? For that matter, the difference between 18th century Englishmen and post-Revolution Americans was tiny compared to the changes necessary before the Chinese could be called free.

Also, I don't think Paine was writing in an environment where the Crown and Colonial governors were throwing pamphleteers in jail.

Thanks for the post. I look forward to interesting times.

Posted by: PJ/Maryland | May 24, 2005 2:57:34 PM