Tag Archives: CCTV

Airpocalypse NOW: China’s netizens slam smog spin sham

12 Dec

smog spaceIn the world of spin there are few who can claim to have reached the very pinnacle of their art. Alastair Campbell swore and bullied New Labour to three general election victories. Fair play you horrible man. Shane Warne managed somehow to put Liz Hurley in such a spin that she had sex with him….more than once by all accounts. Then there is Sri Lankan Muttiah Muralitharan, probably the greatest spinner of all time, who bowled himself to 800 First Class wickets.

They all pale in comparison with the Communist Party of China, who this week via state-controlled media tried to put a positive spin on the country’s airpocalyptic smog problem. The article on national broadcaster CCTV’s web site incurred such a savage backlash from the country’s feisty netizens that it was soon withdrawn, but the Streisand effect has been at full throttle ever since. The broadcaster clearly needs to learn a thing or two from the Daily Mail about link-baiting. If you’re going to post something this offensive you might as well leave it up to get the clicks.

In short, the article highlighted “five surprising benefits from China’s haze”. Not “deadly and entirely man-made fog”, you understand, but “haze” – as one might see on a hot summer’s day in Kensington Park. Whether it was a jokey attempt to play down the carcinogenic clouds that have closed down major cities including Shanghai and Harbin in recent months, is unclear. One thing that is though – if you’re a mouthpiece of the central government, don’t make light of a problem which is causing people to quite literally cough up their lung sacks.

So without further ado, here are the five benefits of cancerous smog as translated by Tea Leaf Nation (comments added by your Noodle):

  • It brings China together. Yup, smog is EVERYWHERE – it affects cities big and small, towns and villages. British people love to talk about the weather – it’s the social glue that holds the nation together. In China they can’t because, well, they can’t see the weather.

  • It makes Chinese people more equal. Kind of a development of the last point. The idea here is that choking smog is indiscriminate – all must kneel before its deadly power. The only slight problem with this argument is that the families of Communist Party members either live abroad or rarely even need to visit the outdoors. They simply glide along on floating money from one air conditioned luxury shopping mall to another.

  • It gives the Chinese an opportunity to display their fabulous sense of humour – cracking wise about the smog. Well, the author certainly misjudged that one.

  • It raises awareness about pollution. Yup, fair point. But awareness has been raised now. I think people would generally quite like their kids to begin breathing non-carcinogenic air.

  • It makes people more knowledgeable. Again, kind of similar to the previous point, but also similarly trumped by the fact that the whole choking air thing is getting a bit old now. The author apparently postulates that “our knowledge or meterology, geography, physics, chemistry and history has progressed” thanks to the smog, and locals have even learned the English words for “haze” and “smog”. Perhaps the author has learned the words for “unpaid leave” by now too.

    For the record, things have gotten so bad on the smog front that Beijing has even been forced to enlist the help of one of its supercomputers – the Tinahe-1A, to help crunch some numbers. The hive mind will be tasked with analysing what conditions foment the perfect smoggy storm so they can be avoided in the future. No doubt the power-hungry supercomputer will be fuelled by a lovely clean coal power station. Oops.

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Mooning the Party this Mid-Autumn Festival

20 Sep

mooncakeIt’s Mid Autumn festival in China: a lunar holiday where families get together over a healthy dinner of seafood, offal, chickens’ extremities and pig anus to complain why their youngest sons/daughters/nephews/nieces aren’t married yet, while their kids fire up the Galaxy Note for the 71st time that day.

I’m being flippant of course. The lanterns bedecking every house, block of flats and public building in Hong Kong at this time of year are actually quite lovely, especially at night, and the giving of thanks to the moon – in years gone by to celebrate the harvest – is a lot more spiritually nourishing than the veneration of a magic Jewish baby.
It’s also nicknamed the “moon festival” and locals eat mooncakes – a traditional Chinese food (danger team) which usually consists of a round pastry-wrapped pie filled with a disgusting slurry of lotus seed paste, red bean paste, or something equally offensive to my delicate western pallet. Imagine tasting a selection of lovingly prepared mooncakes and you’ve just imagined eating a pack of Revels with all the nice ones taken out.
Still, legend goes that back in the 14th century, the humble mooncake helped China topple the mighty Mongols, after Ming revolutionaries communicated  by baking secret messages In the pastry. Mmm delicious revolution .
Sticking the Vs up to the Party

The festival this year has also coincided with more online unrest in China, this time concerning the so-called the Big Vs. These are weibo’s verified account holders, or at least, some of its most popular users, many of whom have accrued followers in their millions and become pretty influential as opinion movers and shapers online.

The problem is that the Communist Party doesn’t much like it when mere mortals start speaking their brains, especially if their thoughts are at odds with Mao, Deng, Marx et al.

Witness the case of poor old Charles Xue, a Chinese American venture capitalist. Now I don’t have much time for VCs, their over-inflated egos and their massive wallets, but Xue has been a powerful voice on Sina Weibo, usually for social good. His campaign against kidnapping in China, and support for Deng Fei’s clean water campaign managed to effect real change in a country where things usually only get done when palms are greased, guanxi tapped and prostitutes exchanged in luxury 5 star hotels.

Unfortunately, rather than let Mr Xue do his thang, the Party decided in its wisdom to make a scapegoat of him. It has been clamping down of late on any online discussions it doesn’t like the sound of, with the increasingly paranoid air of a meth-addled tramp. The great and good of Zhongnanhai call it a campaign to rid the Chinternet of online “rumours” – there’s even jail time promised for popular tweeters whose messages are deemed to fall in this category – but to be honest, it’s just an excuse. I mean, you don’t see Xinhua hauled over the coals for republishing as fact so many Onion stories by now it’s just embarrassing.

Yup, if the Communist Party of China were a person its family and friends would have staged an intervention long ago.

So Xue was arrested the other week for soliciting prostitutes and banged up at His General Secretary’s pleasure to think on his debauched behaviour. Now if it actually happened, he did break the law, fair and square. But quite tellingly, Xue was then paraded before state-run CCTV apologising, not for his filthy whoreing, but for spreading online rumours. Exactly what does his social media profile have to do with his nightime sojourns with ladies of sexy repute? Exactly.

It was such a blatant stitch up it would be funny, if it wasn’t China. The more troubling back story, of course, is that the whole new online rumour clamp down is already stifling debate on an interweb already patrolled by the formidable censorship apparatus of the Great Firewall.

I’ve said it before but once a government creates this kind of a society they can forget about building any kind of cultural soft power to spread throughout the world. Bland TV, bland state-approved movies, awful music and a culture where no one wants to stick their head above the parapet, start an innovative online business, build the next Google.

Already the Big Vs are rushing to have their verified status removed on the country’s microblogs. The rationale is that without the giant letter next to their name they’ll attract less attention. It’s unlikely to work.

Pretty soon they’ll be forced to rely on mooncakes to spread their message.