Today’s China Readings May 30, 2012

Is China launching a new economic stimulus package? The Wall Street Journal explains that “China has significantly accelerated approvals for new investment projects by companies and local governments“, Bloomberg quotes Xinhua as saying China Has No Plan for Large-Scale Stimulus, People’s Daily urges steady growth and prudent investing in 稳增长 要投资不要投资冲动 and the Financial Times provides a summary of what is known so far in China’s mini stimulus, explained. Stock markets on Tuesday welcomed news of some kind of stimulus but disappointment may await those expecting anything similar to the massive policy response we saw in 2008-9.

The Wall Street Journal’s Josh Chin provides a good overview of Sina Weibo’s New ‘User Credit’ Points System, dubbing it Censorship 3.0. Per Chin:

“Sina Weibo issued a new warning to users to keep themselves in-check with the introduction Monday of a points-based behavior measurement system…The system, dubbed “Weibo Credit,” encourages users to report each other for activities ranging from harassment of others to the spreading of “untrue information,” with each negative report resulting in a lower credit score — leading, ultimately, to the public humiliation of a “low-credit user” badge.”

In 新浪微博:发5条敏感信息将被禁言或封号 Caijing reports that Sina has recruited 5484 community committee members to help enforce new rules (新浪微博公开招募的5484名社区委员也开始履职,与新浪共同维护微博平台的秩序). It sounds like the Internet has helped China progress from neighborhood watch committees to Weibo watch committees. I have written a lot about Sina over at Digicha. People who still insist that Sina Weibo is the “Facebook+Twitter” of China misunderstand the competitive situation, the use case and the “cost structure with Chinese characteristics” that results from the information regulatory regime.

China Media Project provides an update on the use of Weibo by the Public Security organs in Chinese police storm into the era of social media, writing that “on May 24, People’s Daily Online Public Opinion Monitoring Center released a list of China’s top influential microblogs operated by public security offices at the provincial and sub-provincial level in China, determined on the basis of confirmed followers (认证粉丝数), follower activity levels (粉丝活跃率), original posts, average shares and comments and other criteria.” Digicha has a post from last October noting that Chinese Police Embrace Microblogs; it is good to see an update on their progress.

The censorship load is only going to increase, absent bigger changes, given that A Quarter of Chinese Children Under 7 Are Already Online (Tea Leaf Nation). My last startup tried to build a virtual world for Chinese kids, believing that the market would grow rapidly. At least we were right about the market, though we were very wrong about how to attack it. I am not sure if it is better to be right but screwup or to just be wrong…

James Fallows has a good post about China’s Internet and the country’s future in Is China’s Internet Actually ‘Slow’? And Does That Matter?. China’s Internet is only slow if you try to access the global Internet outside of China. Surfing on the Chinese Internet is very fast and you can find many copies of just about every service on the global Internet, with content differences of course. Innovation is a challenge here, and the CPC Central Committee Politburo just met and urged the country to “deepen the reform of its technological system and accelerate the building of a national innovative mechanism.” Internet control is a symptom of the political and cultural environment that stifles innovation, not the cause.

Disgraced former Beijing Party Secretary Chen Xitong is in the news after the leak of a new book based on interviews with him following his release from jail. Chen claims he was just following orders in 1989, that he was the innocent victim of a broader power struggle, and that the Tiananmen crackdown was a tragedy. People are getting very excited about this story, but I have a few questions. Do we think he would say “I had significant responsibility for the June 4 crackdown”? If he is innocent, who sold Wangfujing to the Hong Kong developers, and who is responsible for the destruction of a great neighborhood and landmarks like the Peking Opera theater that was razed? And why did his deputy, Wang Baosen, shoot himself in Pinggu?

The US military seems to be in full damage control over the report that special operators go into North Korea. David Axe details the reaction to his original post in Context of the Korea Special Forces Story along with confirmations from other reporters present at the talk. Expect Gen. Tolley to be in a different role soon?

Ian Johnson has a great story about Bill Porter, author of Road to Heaven: Encounters with Chinese Hermits  and Zen Baggage: A Pilgrimage to China, who is finding a much bigger audience in China than he ever found in the West. There is much insight about modern China in Finding Zen and Book Contracts in Beijing.

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