Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Control of Online Discussion Seems Tighter in China

Suspended bullog.cn with a notice on its homepage

There are signs that public discussions on the Internet in China have been put under tighter control lately, although the 17th Party Congress is over.

Bullog.cn, a blog site featuring intellectuals’ discussion over political, society and cultural topics, is suspended. Currently on its homepage is nothing but one notice that reads: “Bullog is going through additional procedures, and will reopen very soon. Please don’t worry.”

The website does not articulate what kind of “additional procedures” it is going through, but it’s not hard to imagine that they are likely related to government regulations on blog sites. Essentially, this note is suggesting that Bullog has been ordered by the authorities to stop operation and has to gain permission to reopen, probably after some adjustments to its content.

As already mentioned in the previous entry, Tianya public forum has banned political discussions. But that’s not it. Opening the Tianya site, one can now see two cartoon figures: one female and one male police officer , floating on the page. Clicking on the cartoon leads to the website of the Network Security Alarm System of Haikou police. Tianya forum was registered in Hainan Province, where Haikou is the capital city.

The cartoon officer is an encouragement for site viewers to report to the cyber police any “insecure” web information and conduct. According to the criteria provided by Haikou cyber police, such harmful information and conduct include spreading computer viruses, attacking other computer systems, and publishing information that “harm national security and social stability.”

These incidents might be an indication that the government is still nervous about online political discussions in the wake of the 17th Party Congress and the creation of a new politburo. Popular online public forums and blogs in China are now full of celebrity gossip, personal life drama, love and sex, money making tip as well as lots of nonsense, while criticism of China’s politics and society is scarce.

Sohu blog
Sina blog
Haikou cyber police

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Internet in China Silent about Top Leader Reshuffle

The coverage of the 17th Party congress is very red

Despite extensive coverage in China’s news media of the 17th National Congress of the Chinese Community Party, discussion of the reshuffle among top leaders is absent, although it has been the focus of foreign media’s coverage of the congress.

Xinhua.com and sina.com.cn, tow of the biggest online news venues in China, both carry special sections for the congress with abundant stories about the main sessions, side lines as well as representatives. Almost all of the stories, however, focus on singing praise of the Party’s achievements in China’s development in the part five years.

Public online comments, that is, those there are allowed to stay, follow the same tone, as demonstrated on Xinhua and Sina BBS. There are some sketchy mentioning of environmental problems and the income gap among people’s comments, but are mostly with a mild tone or uttering hope and support for the Party’s “wise decisions” to solve them.

The permitted theme of the coverage, including commentaries, across the board of Chine’s media is clear: celebrating, supporting and strengthening the rule of the Party.

There is no report or comment on one of the congress’ most important issues, personnel change among the top leaders, particularly the new politburo, on China's major news websites or BBS, at least so far. On one of the most popular Chinese public forum, tianya.cn, there is even no post about the congress at all. As a matter of fact, Tianya has banned since last month all posts regarding Party and national leaders and other political issues.

The silence suggests the sensitivity of the personnel issue, and the Party’s extreme caution in controlling public discourse of this matter in China. Unlike during the National People’s Congress earlier this year, the week of the Party congress is not so much a time for the public to voice concerns, debate policies and suggest solutions.

One of the few negative, sort of, messages stands out among the overwhelming positive reflections is anti-corruption, something the current leadership has vowed to contain.

Special web sections of the congress

Friday, October 05, 2007

Paparazzi and Celebrity Blogs Most Popular

One of Wei Jiaqing's blog articles has been viewed for nearly 1 million times

The most popular blog entries--the ones that have the most visits--so far this year on Sina blog (http://blog.sina.com.cn/) are about celebrities.

The champion, with over 980,000 hits, is a short entry written by 25-year-old model and singer, Ms. Wei Jiaqing, who gained her national recognition after participating in the 2006 Super Girl singing competition. In the entry, she told her fans that she already ended a contract with the company that managed the Super Girl.

Among the eight blog articles that have been viewed for more than 500,000 times, six fall into the paparazzi and celebrity journal categories, written by celebrities themselves or by bloggers specializing in star tales. Sina hosts perhaps the largest number of celebrity blogs in China.

In one of the popular articles, which is from a paparazzi site, the blogger recounted the love story between famous Taiwanese actress Lin Qingxia (Brigitte Lin) and her three lovers. The entry is full of detailed anecdotes and old pictures, demonstrating the blogger’s rich knowledge about the super star.

The two non-paparazzi entries that reached the 500,000-hit mark concern nothing serious, either. One of them is about China National Geography magazine’s project of searching for people with peculiar family names in China.

In comparison, the most popular entries on
http://www.bullog.cn/, a blog site carrying more serious discussions about politics, culture and economy, only generated five-digit hit.

As much as the Internet has become an important political forum for Chinese public, it is an even more powerful entertainment medium. This is partly due to Chinese authority’s control over political discourse on the Internet, which results into abundant revealing beauty pictures but much less out-spoken expressions on Chinese websites.

A large number of Internet users in their teens and twenties, who are ardent followers of the celebrity culture, also helped to drive the popularity of celebrity blogs. Meanwhile, celebrity blogs have become an important part of pop culture in today’s China.

Some popular Sina blog entries in 2007:
http://blog.sina.com.cn/s/blog_4a6a57e901000c98.html (Wei Jiaqing)
http://blog.sina.com.cn/s/blog_48caa4d901000bt4.html (Rivalry between two female stars)
http://blog.sina.com.cn/s/blog_48bb0d010100076i.html (Peculiar Chinese family names)
http://blog.sina.com.cn/s/blog_4894b6f901000c3a.html (Old picture of stars)
http://blog.sina.com.cn/s/blog_53a020d501000c9u.html (Brigitte Lin)

List of most popular articles in 2007 on Sina blog