The Daily China Read

Posted on July 15th, by matt_schiavenza in China. No Comments

This is a snapshot of the Chinese internet today: one can surf the web without a proxy (or VPN) and achieve moderately fast service, but won’t be able to view Facebook, Twitter, Google +, YouTube, Google Docs, and a variety of other sites, not to mention have very spotty access to Gmail. One can also switch on a VPN and have access to those sites, but then have to deal with excruciatingly slow connection speeds, frequent timeouts, and intermittent periods when the service simply doesn’t work at all. There appear to be no alternatives to these two methods of using the internet in China.

Here are a few China-related links that caught my attention this morning:

David Moser writes that the China of 1988- when he was a student at Beijing University- was a more open society in many ways than the China of 2011. I would add that today’s China is more closed than the China I first encountered in 2004- just seven years ago.

In “China’s New Parochialism”, Fareed Zakaria discusses how through restrictions of Hollywood films, economic protectionism, and the peculiar new Maoist nostalgia China has begun pursuing a more isolationist approach. It’s worth bringing up a point made by Ian Bremmer in his excellent The End of the Free Market: the Chinese embrace of markets in the past thirty years is by no means “liberal” in the sense Westerners understand it.

The venerable China Daily is at it again, publishing a sickening editorial attributing the Tiananmen Square massacre to foreign media fabrication. Richard provides an excellent rebuttal at The Peking Duck, just in case anyone for even a second felt inclined to question what actually happened.

Finally, here’s a lengthy piece by Edward Steinfeld arguing that by embracing economic reform, China has altered the contract between citizen and State and may face unwanted political reform as a consequence. Steinfeld is correct that the changes to Chinese society in the Reform era have been tremendous, if for no other reason that the China of the mid-1970s essentially resembled contemporary North Korea. Yet Steinfeld’s comparison of China to South Korea and Taiwan- formerly authoritarian countries that democratized at roughly the same time in the 1980s- is flawed. Nonetheless, one can’t expect that China’s vast societal changes in the past thirty years will never be able to change the political system. In the long run, something’s gotta give.

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