Danwei Picks: 2007-11-28

Danwei Picks is a daily digest of the “From the Web” links found on the Danwei homepage. A feed for the links as they are posted throughout the day is available at Feedsky (in China) or Feedburner (outside China).

Saving face, ordaining bishops: Adam Minter at Shanghai Scrap posts about the maneuvering and clever scheduling that has been going on to keep Beijing and the Vatican from falling out again:

The September ordinations of Papally-approved bishops for Beijing and Guiyang was widely assumed to mark an improvement in the ongoing rapprochement between the Vatican and Beijing. And, to an extent, that interpretation was correct. Not only had the Pope approved the ordinations, but so had the government-run Chinese Catholic Bishops Conference. But all was not well, either. Faithful in both dioceses were upset by the attendance of Ma Yinglin, the illicitly ordained (in 2006, without Papal approval) bishop of Kunming. Though nobody was saying so publicly, many interpreted Ma’s presence as a not-so-subtle signal that the Chinese religious authorities were not yet so willing to loosen their control over Chinese Catholic life and – at the same time – a direct signal that the new bishops would be loyal to Beijing before Rome.

Then, last week, came news that three additional bishops had received approval from the Chinese Bishops Conference to be ordained in Guangzhou, Yichang, and Ningxia, respectively.

Fighting off the wolves: Zhu Linyong of the China Daily talks to Liu Zhenyun about his new novel, I Am Liu Yuejin:

Chef Liu is a mild-natured migrant worker who is tortured by his broken marriage. The chef tries every means to safeguard his own interests. He is smart but powerless.

In his search for his lost bag of money, Liu Yuejin breaks promises, playing a deadly game with dangerous enemies, including a real estate tycoon, corrupted officials, the mafia, vendors, prostitutes, private eyes, and subcontractors.

"Life looks smooth and perfect. However, when looking underneath, one may find holes, cracks and misfit joints. I intend to do a justice to the incongruity of life in my stories," explains Liu who prefers to call all his novels "comedies" instead of "tragedies or tragic-comedies".

"For centuries, playwrights, writers, and scriptwriters are fond of writing about tragedies. But in my eyes, all tragedies are comedies," says Liu.

The end of the golden age of blogs in China: Ethan Zuckerman writes about Michael Anti’s presentation about Chinese blogs as part of a Berkman talk:

…since 2006, most of the interesting and dissenting news is coming from chat rooms. 2004 and 2005, he tells us, were the "golden years" for the Chinese blogosphere….and they’re over now…. the Chinese internet has gone "back to the old years", and chat rooms have returned to importance. Chatrooms have existed in China since 1998, and they’re popular venues for spreading "sharp news"…. "We’re making social change using web 1.0, not using web 2.0."

Web 2.0 is associated with democratization and decentralization in the US and Europe. These tools make it possible for people to have a voice, and for online voices to become powerful in an offline space. "But this can only happen in democratic countries," he argues. In China, the problem with these tools is that they’re centralized, living on a single server. Block wordpress.com and you block millions of voices; blog twitter.com and you block the entire service. They’re easy to control via firewalls and government centralized control.

But email and chatrooms aren’t as centralized. There are chatrooms on thousands of servers, and it’s hard for the government to block every chatroom overseas. It’s easy to blog webmail, but people who use POP mail are difficult to block and prevent from talking about sensitive topics. Oddly enough, GMail remains unblocked in China – Anti believes it’s because so many government officials and businessmen use it, and it would be difficult to block it without negative implications for powerful people.

"We don’t need new media theory to explain blogs in China: blogs are old media," Anti argues. "We had no media before 1996 – we had propoganda." In propoganda, the party speaks to you – it’s exclusively one-way communication. The internet introduces the idea of bi-directional media, and creates media as we understand it for the first time in China in 1996.

More information from David Weinberger.

China should forgive American debt: Josh at Cup of Cha makes the case for debt forgiveness:

China needs to look into its heart, and its soul, and forgive American debt. For too long the US has been held hostage to foreign debt collectors, and quite frankly, it’s weighing the country down. At this point it seems petty for China even to ask for its money back. What’s 900 billion dollars among strategic allies?

Sarko in Beijing, China offers $15 billion deal for Airbus: The Wall Street Journal reports:

A tentative agreement for China to buy Airbus jetliners valued at $15 billion topped about $30 billion of contract signings for French companies overseen by President Nicolas Sarkozy during his first state visit to the country, but the raft of deals barely papered over widening currency-policy differences between the powers.

Mr. Sarkozy yesterday urged Beijing to let the yuan rise against the euro as tension grows in Europe over the euro’s strength against the Chinese currency. The European Union is China’s top trading partner.

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