Home » Posts tagged 'censorship'
Tag Archives: censorship
As everyone knows, the Chinese Communist Party is fully committed to reincarnating itself as the Qing dynasty, but with more aircraft carriers and a Communist Dalai Lama who tells choking city dwellers to be less materialistic. In today’s lead editorial, Huanqiu Shibao puts it this way: “众所周知，中国藏传佛教的活佛转世有一整套历史定制和宗教仪轨，持续三百多年，从清朝开始，新达赖的确定必须得到中央政府的批准。达赖这几年不断抛出人们闻所未闻的异端邪说，称他可以转世为外国人、女人等等。最近又干脆说他可以不转世了.”
In other news, women who believe in stopping sexual harassment on public transport in China have been targeted and detained by the state. It’s almost as if the Standing Committee of the CCP (where women hold 2 of the 25 posts) believes that Chinese women should take a cue from their North Korean counterparts and spend International Women’s Day busying themselves with statements about their good fortune to live in the glow of a brilliant patriarch.
As the agile voice of Barbara Hannigan recently wrote about conducting, another quasi-mystical field of leadership: “It is neither male nor female. Convention has kept the field dominated by men.” Maybe the next Dalai Lama will appear in female form, after all.
Muzzle the Scholars Who Blight the Treaties, or, Why Korean-Chinese Scholars Shouldn’t Talk About Kim Jong-Il
[Note: This essay is read aloud by the author here.]
China’s information environment with regard to North Korea has become increasingly free-wheeling since the stunning nuclear test of May 25, 2009, and this blog has consistently taken note of that singular fact. Beijing University scholars were told that summer that the gloves could now come off with reference to studies of the DPRK, and consequently, even the origins of the Korean War are now open to open scrutiny and challenge (no small thing in the context of the PRC). The popular media has been serving up stories about the Kim family that fit entirely with China’s globalization, yielding delicious congruities with Western, South Korean, and Japanese reporting about the North Korean ruling elite.
What seems to be out of bounds still is in-depth criticism (versus short comments in online chat forms) of the North Korean system, towards which the CCP remains rather sympathetic. And thus stories about Kim Jong-Il’s alleged seven year old son coexist with scholars in popular newsweeklies telling Kim Jong Eun, essentially: “It’s time to get serious about your career, son, get busy writing some Marxist-Leninist-Maoist-Kimist-Juche theory so that you can be taken seriously!” North Korean refugees get short shrift, but they and their advocates will still occasionally turn up in Chinese media, along with references to the Daily NK.
Overall, these need to be regarded as positive trends, even as China remains recalcitrant to toe the Western line in its totality on the North Korea issue.
So it’s rather disheartening to read in the Chosun Ilbo that Jin Xide, an ethnic Korean scholar who had reached about as high as one can get into the stratosphere of the Beijing think-tank culture, has been sentenced to 14 years in prison for “revealing state secrets” about Kim Jong Il to foreign sources.
Is this being done for national security, or is Jin’s arrest a sop to the North Koreans, a pledge to dial it back on the domestic criticism of the DPRK? As I describe in my recent article in Korean Studies, this kind of thing is never, ever good for ethnic Korean citizens of the PRC, who are already at pains to prove their loyalty to the Chinese motherland. Ethnic Koreans never get the press that Tibetans do, and, as Jin’s position indicates, they tend to rise to positions of greater authority in the PRC. But their position as a “model minority” is inevitably complicated by the rise of South Korea and the availability of patronage and sponsorship from the peninsula. Has anyone (OK, besides me) done any kind of study of how hard the Korean War was for this population? When there were regular accusations of South Korean agents being dropped into Yanbian? Why is it that when the statements are made (always blithely, by the way) about Yanbian as a “third Korea” that would demand fusion with a reunited Korea, everyone just seems to assume that it would be an easy and consequence-free choice for ethnic Koreans in Northeast China to back the new Korean state?
Thick black lines of borders (which are not lines at all, yet even to rebel against them confirms their heft) reflect deep welts of the cudgel: political violence, triumph of a band of oppressive wills. Peng Dehuai and Kim Il, please meet General Ridgeway. The historian thus disintegrates.
At this point, frustrated but fresh from a lecture on the historiography of the Qin dynasty, I would like to engage in a slovenly comparison. In his acceptance of Jin’s imprisonment, is that lover of Party history and coordinator of Korea policy, Xi Jinping, comparable to Emperor Qin Shihuandi, he who bound up scholarship before it was all burned by Xiang Yu? But such a comparison would also imply that Xi is a princeling who spent time as a hostage prince in a rival state when in fact he was merely a princeling who spent time in a commune during the Cultural Revolution.
Instead I will simply say that arresting scholars does very little to create a climate of healthy critical inquiry!
Under such circumstances, we all have to look for solace somewhere. Fortunately North Korea has a good friend in Mexico who uploads North Korean television reports to YouTube, giving us at least some distraction from what is certainly a point of muted but intense interest in the tea-dripped white tile hallways of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. And this particular video is a fascinating artifact indeed, recently uploaded: Kim Jong Il looks worse than ever, his left arm basically useless, his son looks nervous, yet, to my untrained eye, the Korean People’s Army looks about as sharp as ever. They won’t save North Korea’s shores from the next big Chinese oil spill, but perhaps that isn’t the point.
Adam Cathcart, “Nationalism and Ethnic Identity in the Sino-Korean Border Region of Yanbian, 1945-1950,” Korean Studies, vol. 34 (2010), 25-53.
The Wall Street Journal “China Real Time Report” is one of the more comprehensive group blogs out there about the PRC, and this WSJ piece by Lu Yiyi on the soft spots in China’s censorship regime is really worth reading. Amid the apparent trend toward more hard-line behavior, the CCP still needs to get a bit of credit for pushing the envelope and encouraging more transparent discussion of things like corruption, at least most of the time.
The English-language media in China is a very interesting case indeed. China Daily has been trying to run more edgy stories in the past couple of years, and is now in the running with the (also state-controlled) Global Times for an occasionally critical story. (Global Times, by the way, is looking for a copy-editor for their Xi’an office, which looks like a good job for a college graduate who might otherwise be wandering the wilds of, say, Detroit, looking for some stories or scrap metal to hawk.) A good example of how Global Times will occasionally tip their hat to informational realities in China is this February article on censorship on the portal Douban, an arts-centered social networking site of which I also happen to be a member.
And so it seemed strange when a Wall Street Journal blogger attacked the Global Times for the GT’s humor column entitled “Ask Alessandro” which parodied stereotypes of sexually active Italian males.
The resulting fiasco, with the relevant links, is aptly summarized here in an essential post on one talented itinerant sportswriter’s Heart of Beijing blog.
Jacob Li, of the Global Times English edition, responded with an editorial that announced that Alessandro’s column was being cut:
…I would like to apologize to those who have been offended by Alessandro’s occasional vulgar language during the last three months. I decided to discipline the foul-mouthed Italian by canceling his advice column until he realizes how wrong he is and how he has jeopardized Metro Beijing, the first daily English language local news provider in town.
As I read more of the blog, I did start to feel ashamed of being incompetent, particularly when I saw the appellations Miss Canaves of the WSJ gives us: An arm of the People’s Daily, the Communist Party’s official mouthpiece and the “government-run” epithet, and calling us on our so-called great ambition of gaining a voice abroad…
We’re clear about who we are. This is simply an English language newspaper run by Chinese people, with the help of some foreigners. We never talk about ambitions in our office, and if we, mostly young Chinese journalists, had an ambition, that would be projecting all voices in society, namely the voices of foreigners, migrant workers, petitioners… not only of officials. But if objectivity and plurality happen to build up our country’s soft power, everyone who is involved should feel proud.
Anyway, we should thank Miss Canaves for pointing out the inappropriateness of some of Alessandro’s advice. It helps us, a fledgling English language newspaper, to find the boundary.
Of course, the art that accompanies the editorial seems to speak more powerfully than the words.
Say what you will about Alessandro’s ribald humor, but it is an awful irony when, in the same week that the United States is getting hammered in the Chinese press for repression of personal freedoms domestically, that the Wall Street Journal succeeds in closing off a slight avenue for free expression in the PRC.
What would Ai Weiwei say? Well, that’s probably also unprintable.
As was described on this blog on Sunday, Japanese scholar Mizutani Naoko was barred from entering China on Feb. 27 on account of Chinese apprehension toward her activities in support of Xinjiang’s exiled Rebiya Khadeer.
Today, Deutsche Welle’s Chinese service interviewed the scholar [rough translation by Adam Cathcart]:
水谷尚子表示，中国作为一个国家有权决定允许谁入境，因此她并不对此表示抗议。但她认为，中国方面拒绝她入境的人并不了解她的观点，她是一位温和派的学 者。她说：”他们可能根本不了解我这个人是什么样思想的人，这让我非常遗憾。我是温和派的人。日本有一些新纳粹，为了打击中国，利用维吾尔人、西藏人，也 有这样的。日本这些新纳粹，非常极端的右翼，甚至是黑社会，这样的人他们都可以进入中国，随便入境。那么，我为什么受到这样特别的对待？” Mizutani Naoko stated that [she] regarded China as a country which has the right to determine who crosses its borders, therefore she judged it incorrect to express resistance [to the immigration officials]. But she believes that the Chinese side/person who refused her entry into China did not understand her perspective, she being a moderate type of scholar. She said: “It’s possible that they basically did not understand what kind of ideology this person [e.g., Mizutani] held, and this makes me very regretful. I am a very moderate person. Japan has a few neo-Nazis who want to hit China using Uighurs and Tibetan people; these kind of [Japanese] people also exist. These few neo-Nazis in Japan, especially the extreme right wing, along with the Yakuza, these people are all allowed to enter China’s borders. So if this is the case, why should they make such a special treatment for me?”
Well, probably because Yakuza don’t publish books about Rebiya Khadeer.
Looking at the publicity (as opposed to the full bibliographical citation) for Mizutani’s 2007 book on Uighur exiles, it becomes clear that the text was reasonably successful in Japan, being offered as an affordable paperback which promised, in the words of the press release, to expose Xinjiang as “血も凍る拷問と虐殺。核実験場にされるウイグル自治区。中国の人権弾圧のおそろしい実態を、亡命者群像が生々しく証言し告発する,” or, roughly rendered (and with apologies for my unidiomatic Japanese), “A place of blood-curdling torture and slaughter, the nuclear test site which is the Uighur autonomous area, China’s site of of fearful oppression of human rights: Exiles testify to the actual conditions.”
Now, China should have praised her 2006 book on “Japan hands” in China, particularly as that year was witnessing a renaissance in historical scholarship which put China and Japan on better footing (such as the commemoration of the 1946 Huludao boatlift of Japanese settlers and refugees from Manchuria back to Japan). But then again, maybe Chinese Japan-watchers were upset by her 2005 retort to China’s immense anti-Japanese upsurge of that same year: entitled “Exposing the Warped ‘Patriotism’ of Anti-Japanese Sentiment in China.” Now it would appear the odds of her ever writing anything favorable again towards the CCP would be substantially diminished. But then again, those buried scholars didn’t seem to have much to say to Qin Shihuang back in 209 B.C., at least according to (castrated) court historian Sima Qian. In other words, I wonder (along with Far Eastern Economic Review, h/t to JustRecently) if much has changed about the historical profession in China when even (or especially!) foreign scholars need to kowtow to the dominant narrative.
Fortunately for the CCP, it appears unlikely that any criticism about Mizutani’s case will be coming from Washington, D.C., as this morning brings shouts of great joy: another Uighur “terrorist” has been evaporated by a million-dollar cruise missile from an unmanned aerial drone over Pakistan. AlJezeera reports on it here (along with a good report on the ongoing struggles and restored text messaging in Urumqi), but it’s the prominent placement of this story in the Huanqiu Shibao, just the day after the Mizutani fiasco, that interests me.
The Huanqiu headline reads 美导弹炸死“疆独”头目 “东突”再受重创, or, “American Missile Kills Leading Ringleader of ‘Xinjiang Independence’: Predator Drone Again Inflicts Heavy Losses.”
The story then gets into a pretty long list of what the target of this assault was responsible for: so counter-terrorist parties can now begin in both Beijing and Washington, D.C., I suppose.
It’s a pretty fresh and somewhat sensitive story, but in the last 15 minutes one comment came in on the BBS for this story, stating: 美兄给二会送礼来了, or “The American brother has given the Second Plenary Session of the People’s Congress a nice gift.”
Speaking of which: there’s a mean photo gallery of the very serious paramilitary security operations in Beijing in preparation for a big party gathering.
For a long and worthy expose on “the drone surge” in Central and South Asia, this essay by Nick Turse (via TomDispatch) is worth a read, and, for that matter, a translation into Chinese.
But in the meantime, I suppose it’s time for us all, Mizutani Naoko included, to recall that our nations (that is, the United States and China) are at war with a shadowy force that necessitates hardening of national boundaries, body scans, full-time surveillance of blogs (and cell-phone communications, and publications), and that this surveillance is done with our safety (and ultimately, our dignity) in mind. It is precisely because we are educated that we are obligated to serve the greater societal good by sitting down and shutting up because after all, bureaucrats who wear badges are far more qualified than we to decide what is right, and who goes where, and what the just and tolerant society looks like. Don’t you agree?
Acknowledgments: In composing this post, the Twitter feeds of Henryk Szadziewski (manager of Uighur Human Rights Project in D.C.) as well as Kaikaji (Japanese China-watcher) were very helpful, and, as usual, work by JustRecently (specifically this post) added fuel to the intellectual fires. I should also add that Chuck Kraus’ Foreign Devil blog has carried a number of stunning posts (like this one) describing the deep history of the CCP takeover of Xinjiang with emphasis on the period 1949-1952.
I just want to make a brief note of a symmetry that recently crossed my desk on the subject of book looting and burning in and after World War II in East Asia.
It arrived as a missive, the type of which I receive every so often from the “Society for the Dissemination of Historical Fact” in Japan, a group of, shall we say, revisionist gentlemen. You’ll get the idea:
Dear Adam Cathcart ,
The GHQ, the command center of the American occupation forces in Japan, make a great deal about “freedom of speech” on the surface, but all reportage and publications were subjected to a thorough prepublication censorship. Even private letters were unsealed and read due to this censorship. The GHQ’s control of the expression of people’s views did not stop there. They undertook a book burning on a scale that one can’t help but compare it to the infamous book burnings of the Nazis. Under the name of “propaganda publications,” a total of 7,769 works published before the war were confiscated for “burning.” In this essay, Prof. Nishio Kanji shines a light on exactly what types of books were seized, and exactly how were they taken. In short, the truth of the shock that the policy of the GHQ was the obliteration of Japanese history and thought is here proclaimed to the world. [correspondence from Moteki Hiromichi to Adam Cathcart, Feb. 20, 2010]
Yes, in this type of scholarship, MacArthur is nothing more than a ne0-Hitler in pursuit of the destruction of Japanese culture, while China’s claims to Japanese cultural artifacts or reparations are simply ignored.
Let’s see….MacArthur….Hitler…cultural artifacts….censorship and propaganda…Oh wait a second!
Facts are such inconvenient things. (It’s quite fine to criticize U.S. occupation policy, but to compare MacArthur to Hitler, or SCAP to Kristallnacht really just means you’re swinging around a red herring that can hit just about anyone in the face. This is the kind of thing that makes actual survivors of Nazi dictatorship really very mad.)
As I argue in this issue of the journal Studies on Asia, China was entitled to and actively seeking to regain its cultural patrimony — including books — from U.S.-occupied Japan in 1946 and 1947. My research indicates that MacArthur was far, far more receptive to Japanese arguments at the time for withholding such items from the Chinese, and rebuffed attempts from outsiders to take away Japanese books. And scholars have lately been rather critical of MacArthur’s unwillingness to go all-in for a kind of full-scale reform of Japanese education and the deep roots of militarism in Japan, making the Article IX (the peace clause) in the Japanese Constitution a kind of quick fix and propaganda ploy so that MacArthur could get home and run for president.
For a more objective look at MacArthur’s policies on all fronts, including cultural reforms and censorship (which nobody denies was going on, after all), see Eiji Takamae’s immortal and extensive work GHQ, reviewed here by a talented translator who was in Japan as a 19-year-old in 1946.
In short, the paper by the SDHF scholar is worth flipping through to understand what kind of specious arguments are being made by the Japanese right wing, but not as a guide to reality at the time. The stretching metaphors — MacArthur not just as Hitler, but as Qin Shihuangdi — and the first footnote that indicates that “burning” is used more as metaphor than anything else, ought to be sufficient to indicate that. Besides, if the SDHF was serious about taking on the U.S. for scotching East Asian libraries after 1945, they would also rise to the defense of the North Koreans, whose libraries and documents were absorbed wholesale by Douglas MacArthur’s forces in the great northern onrush of the Korean War in fall 1950 and continue to be held in the U.S. National Archives.
(Strange experience: Working in Record Group 242, “Captured Enemy Documents,” I’ve held in my hands those very books upon which our victim above lies and published a paper based upon the findings. All before I knew their precise origins. Does that make me an accomplice in MacArthur’s “looting” of Asian libraries? I must admit a strange feeling came over me when I found this photograph and correlated our mutual connection to these particular books and magazines. Reading some sources comes at a kind of unknowable cost.)
By contrast to the sketchy assertions made in the SDHF report, Zhao Jianmin (赵建民）is an indefatigable scholar in the PRC who has done outstanding quantitative work on the depth of Japanese looting of Chinese books and cultural artifacts in the era of the War of Resistance (1937-1945) or, more correctly, the Japanese occupation of China. He has published widely and with great factual detail in Chinese journals like “Journal of War of Resistance Research / 抗日战争研究” about the holdings of specific libraries and universities. A very small amount of his work has been translated by Rutgers scholar Peter Li in the latter’s book outstanding edited volume, Japanese War Crimes. (Although Zhao’s essay is not available on the Google Books version, one can get a good sense of the volume anyway.)
Finally, it appears to me that Chinese scholars are doing a great deal of research on popular perceptions of the war in both China and Japan. One can only hope that the members of the SDHF are adept enough to realize that their, well, inflammatory work may only serve the function of stirring up more Chinese university students and is unlikely to sway scholars who actually write books about these topics. But perhaps that is the whole point after all.
An outbreak of Korea-related materials have the present author slightly detained at the moment, but one can’t help but notice the sharp deterioration of public rhetoric in the US-China relationship.
Shen Dingli, one of China’s most prominent establishment intellectuals, has a large new editorial in the Global Times (in Chinese) on the Google issue, confronting the freedom of information issue head-on. (Big surprise: national security and sovereignty trump all else, and American imperialism gets a minor bashing.) Although the editorial will probably make it into English (or French, as Shen has published before in Le Monde Diplomatique) at some point, I may get busy on translating it this afternoon. We will see.
And then there is this article, also from Huanqiu Shibao, portending a “new Cold War” in US-China relations, at least as far as some netizens are concerned. Say it ain’t so!