Today’s China Readings June 3, 2012

Kudos to Google.

Some of yesterday’s criticism of Google was unfair. It turns out that as part of the new China search feature Google now provides public access to the list of the keywords the Great Firewall (GFW) blocks. Greatfire.org, a good resource for all things GFW, published all the blocked keywords, according to Google. The javascript routine for the new search feature also allows the extraction of the list of blocked keywords, providing a fascinating look at some of the topics worrying the authorities. Google’s engineers are too smart to have allowed this access by accident. This move is a very Googley solution to the release of such a sensitive and valuable data set…

Ed Wong of the New York Times adds some new information to the US-China spy scandal, quoting a US official who claims that:

“the detention came during the same period as a series of investigations begun after the revelations in the Bo affair. The investigations, authorized by China’s top leaders, have expanded beyond Mr. Bo to the Ministry of State Security and now include allegations of improper use of the security services by various Chinese officials and corruption, the official said.

It was not clear that the espionage case was related in any way to the other investigations.”

Barbara Demick of the Los Angeles Times also provides more details about the case, writing that news of the case first appeared May 25 in the June issue of 新維月刊 (Xinwei Monthly), and not World Journal 世界日报 as I wrote yesterday.

We should all be wondering who started the initial round of leaks in this case and why they did so, and we should be wary of believing we are getting anything like the true story right now. For those interested in US-China spy cases, David Wise’s Tiger Trap: America’s Secret Spy War With China is a decent primer to the recent history of US-China espionage.

Xinwei Monthly is a Hong Kong-based magazine that publishes all sorts of titillating stories about Chinese politics, some of them occasionally true. I read parts of the May issue at a Beijing friend’s house a couple of weeks ago. He had just returned from a trip to Hong Kong and giddily showed me the stack of (reactionary 反动 as he called them) publications he had bought. The May issue of Xinwei had an article revealing Beijing’s concerns about Bo Xilai’s close ties to Generals Liu Yuan and Zhang Haiyang as well as other PLA officers, news that appeared in English in the middle of May.

In what appears to be a coordinated release, both Boxun (博讯) and MirrorNews (明鏡新聞網) just published crazy stories about a conspiracy and the March Ferrari crash in Beijing that killed someone with very powerful relations. I am not going to publish details of something that at this point looks more like a work of fiction than real news, but in the interests of hedging I will say that since it is China anything is possible, and if these reports are true then things are really worrisome. Bets as to which English-language media outlet first reports on this latest alleged conspiracy? The WantChinaTimes does not count.

Assuming this latest story is a rumor dissemination operation, is it fair to call it a “news virus”, meaning a false story disseminated to outlets known for seeding other blogs and social media networks, with the expectation that during the transmission of the information it eventually leaps into mainstream media and becomes accepted as real news? My sense is that there are a lot of “news viruses” about China and we all need to strengthen our resistance to them.

Caixin’s A Point Man’s Talking Points is an interesting interview with Michael Evans, a Goldman Sachs Vice Chairman with responsibility for China. Say what you will about Goldman Sachs but their executives are extremely intelligent and well-informed. Evans’ views about China’s economy are worth paying attention to, as are signs that Goldman may be planning another selldown of its Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC) stake.

The best way to see this daily post is to subscribe by email, especially if you are in China, as Sinocism is still blocked here. The email signup page is here, outside the GFW. You can also follow me on @niubi or Sina Weibo @billbishop. Comments/tips/suggestions are welcome, and feel free to forward to recommend to friends, as the more readers I have the better the content will become. And of course if you are feeling generous donations are always appreciated. Thanks for reading.

Today’s suggesting links:

  • Cambodia to Ask Met to Return 10th-Century Statues – NYTimes.com
    The Cambodian government is convinced that two life-size 10th-century statues that have anchored the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Southeast Asian galleries for nearly two decades were looted from a jungle temple and plans to ask for their return.
  • Renowed scholar devoted life to classic novel |People |chinadaily.com.cn
    Zhou Ruchang, China’s leading scholar of the classic novel A Dream of Red Mansions, died at age of 95 at his home at midnight on Thursday. His death stirred nationwide mourning and excited a new tide of interest in the literary masterpiece, which is important to the Chinese and is thought to have reached unprecedented heights.
  • Amazon.com: Mao’s Invisible Hand: The Political Foundations of Adaptive Governance in China (Harvard Contemporary China Series) (9780674060630): Sebastian Heilmann, Elizabeth J. Perry, Jae Ho Chung, Nara Dillon, Joseph Fewsmith, Benjamin L. Liebman, Patri
    Observers have been predicting the demise of China’s political system since Mao Zedong’s death over thirty years ago. The Chinese Communist state, however, seems to have become increasingly adept at responding to challenges ranging from leadership succession and popular unrest to administrative reorganization, legal institutionalization, and global economic integration. What political techniques and procedures have Chinese policymakers employed to manage the unsettling impact of the fastest sustained economic expansion in world history?As the authors of these essays demonstrate, China’s political system allows for more diverse and flexible input than would be predicted from its formal structures. Many contemporary methods of governance have their roots in techniques of policy generation and implementation dating to the revolution and early PRC—techniques that emphasize continual experimentation. China’s long revolution had given rise to this guerrilla-style decisionmaking as a way of dealing creatively with pervasive uncertainty. Thus, even in a post-revolutionary PRC, the invisible hand of Chairman Mao—tamed, tweaked, and transformed—plays an important role in China’s adaptive governance.
  • China: Politics as Warfare by Jonathan Mirsky | The New York Review of Books
    Mao’s Invisible Hand is one of those books that make one feel good about scholarship. It describes inner workings of Chinese Communist society about which few nonexperts know anything—it may even surprise the experts—and it will interest anyone professionally interested in China. Its central purpose is to explain how China has escaped the disintegration of other Communist states
  • 汪玉凯:腐败难根除 民众且忍耐?_观点频道_财新网
    当今社会,老百姓对腐败已经到了忍无可忍的地步,一切试图为腐败现象做辩解的言论,其结果将助长腐败的泛滥,最终受到人民的唾弃
  • Increasing Evidence Solves Mystery of Amelia Earhart’s Disappearance
    We all held our breath on Wednesday when an anti-freckle cream jar was discovered on Nikumaroro Island in the Pacific. This seemed to support the leading theory by The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery (TIGHAR) that Amelia Earhart landed on a coral atoll near the island, and survived — at least for a bit.Yesterday new evidence emerged, making the Amelia-Earhart-as-castaway conclusion all the more likely
  • Political Change in China Opens Investment Opportunities – Barrons.com
    A focus on companies in eight strategic industries, and those that serve the growing domestic market, could yield the best returns.
  • A Point Man’s Talking Points – Caixin Online
    Michael Evans, Goldman Sachs’ representative in China since the global investment firm entered the country, talks to Caixin about rebalancing the economy and the strength of the country’s banks
  • Leon Panetta Outlines New Weaponry for Pacific – NYTimes.com
    The Navy, Mr. Panetta said, would reconfigure its forces from a 50-50 split between the Atlantic Ocean and the Pacific to 60 percent of the Navy’s assets assigned to the Pacific Ocean.
    The renewed emphasis on the Pacific would involve six aircraft carriers, and a majority of the Navy’s cruisers, destroyers, littoral combat ships and submarines. These would be fortified by an increase in the number and size of military exercises in the Pacific, and a greater number of port visits.
  • U.S. to improve strategic trust with China while “rebalancing” towards Asia Pacific: Panetta – Xinhua | English.news.cn
    The US will try to improve the strategic trust with China by strengthening military-to-military exchanges.
    • The US is clear-eyed about the challenges but there will also be opportunities from closer relationship.
    • US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta that US military presence in the Pacific will also increase
  • 美媒体称奥巴马曾密令对伊朗加强网络攻击|伊朗|网络攻击|病毒_新浪新闻
  • The Weekend Interview with Bob Fu: The Pastor of China’s Underground Railroad – WSJ.com
    How the son of a beggar became a democrat, a Christian and a guide to the recently escaped dissident Chen Guangcheng.
  • China reportedly accuses intelligence employee of being U.S. spy – latimes.com
    The employee is said to be a 38-year-old man who was a secretary to Qiu Jin, the deputy minister of state security. He is alleged to have been recruited and trained by the CIA and was arrested sometime this year.
    “He helped to successfully penetrate the state security department and became aide to the vice minister … and was able to get his hands on core secrets of senior state officials,” a report in the Hong Kong-based Oriental Daily said.
    There were conflicting reports on how the alleged spy was recruited. In one account, it occurred while he was a student in the U.S. The Oriental Daily, however, reported that he was caught up in a classic “honey trap” by a woman who photographed him in a compromising setting in a Hong Kong apartment and later coerced him into spying.。。
    News of the alleged spy first surfaced in a May 25 article in Xinwei Monthly, a Hong Kong-based magazine that occasionally publishes leaks from Beijing.
  • China Is Said to Detain Official Spying for U.S. – NYTimes.com
    A senior administration official, speaking on the condition of anonymity because of diplomatic sensitivities, said the detention came during the same period as a series of investigations begun after the revelations in the Bo affair. The investigations, authorized by China’s top leaders, have expanded beyond Mr. Bo to the Ministry of State Security and now include allegations of improper use of the security services by various Chinese officials and corruption, the official said.It was not clear that the espionage case was related in any way to the other investigations.“There is clearly some very intense stuff going on with the security ministry,” the official said. “It’s hard to tell exactly, but it’s clearly maneuvering going on after Bo.”Early this year, senior Chinese officials imposed a foreign travel ban on scholars at an important research center based in Beijing that some analysts say has ties to the Ministry of State Security. The ban on overseas travel within the center, the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations, was related to an intelligence breach, said one person who has contact with the institutes’ scholars, and could well be a direct result of the discovery and detention of the official suspected of spying.
  • GreatFire May: Google and Sina Adapt, The Great Firewall Strikes Back | GreatFire.org
    this got the GFW team to strike back. Within a day, they disabled the new Google feature by blocking the javascript file that contains the code altogether. This of course makes us wonder what Google’s next move will be. It would be very easy to rename the file or to embed it on the html page making it more difficult to selectively block features.Going forward, there is much more that Google can do. Rather than just informing users that a search query has been censored, they could offer ways to get around it. The most obvious one would be to redirect users (automatically or manually) to the encrypted version of Google which is still not blocked in China (https://www.google.com.hk).The fact that this functionality was rolled out, and not just on Google Hong Kong but actually any Google search engine that is accessed from China, shows that Google is actively working on ways to get around censorship in China
  • All the blocked keywords, according to Google | GreatFire.org
    We were excited yesterday to see Google roll out a new feature that warns users trying to search for keywords that would otherwise be blocked by the Great Firewall. It seems that the feature has now already been disabled by the GFW blocking access to the javascript file which does the magic. More on that in our soon-to-be-published monthly newsletter. Meanwhile, we couldn’t resist reverse-engineering the list of blocked keywords that Google used.

The best way to see this daily post is to subscribe by email, especially if you are in China, as Sinocism is still blocked here. The email signup page is here, outside the GFW. You can also follow me on @niubi or Sina Weibo @billbishop. Comments/tips/suggestions are welcome, and feel free to forward to recommend to friends, as the more readers I have the better the content will become. And of course if you are feeling generous donations are always appreciated. Thanks for reading.

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