Chinese Content Filters Block Air Passages, 1.3 Billion Suffocating

China has expanded its Internet filtering system to the nation’s atmosphere, leaving millions gasping for breath. The new system, called the “Golden Fan Project”, utilizes a complex system of fans, vents and tubes to block any “spiritual pollution” from entering the country.

Nationalist sentiments about Chinese air have been simmering for quite some time, and have recently exploded after recent violence in Tibet. Chinese authorities claim that Tibetans attacked innocent Han Chinese air conditioner salesmen, while Tibetan activists abroad point the finger at China’s occupation of Tibet’s atmosphere and discriminatory breathing policies. The Chinese government has not allowed foreign correspondents to enter Tibet except in specially designed sealed bubbles. “The atmosphere is not good right now, we must take these precautions for the safety of foreign journalists”, said one official.

Tibetan activists counter that the air is fine, but is being exploited by the Chinese. “The air in Tibet is very thin. The growing Han Chinese settler population will soon breath it all up, leaving no Tibetan air for Tibetans,” said Soblang Rimpoche, director of Free Breathing for Tibet. He also points to a massive air pipeline constructed in 2007 to ship air from Tibet into the interior in an effort to support a rapidly developing China’s growing hunger for air.

Meanwhile, the Chinese nationalist web forum Anti-CNN.com has begun a new campaign against “biased foreign air” that “hurts the feelings and the lungs of the Chinese people.” A demonstration outside the offices of Air France last week left 23 dead of auto-asphyxiation, while 44 sustained injuries from holding their breath for too long. An internet manhunt also singled out an overseas Chinese student, who was spotted in photographs breathing European air. “You can clearly see her mouth is open,” said one commenter, “filthy traitor dog!”

Foreign critics of China’s air policies point out that the country has become the world’s number one air polluter, and that China would benefit from paying more attention to its own air rather than others. Chinese supporters believe this is simply a ploy to prevent China developing a more modern climate. They also point to reports that the US Olympic team plans to bring breathing masks and oxygen tents to Beijing, arguing this demonstrates that China’s efforts are no different than any other countries desire to maintain its atmospheric sovereignty.

While it is not clear precisely how the Golden Fan Project works, it seems to involve an array of different methods to block “harmful” foreign air. These methods include blocking breezes from particular regions, filtering for specific scents, and monitoring local air for “inappropriate exhales”. Expatriates in China report that there are numerous ways to breath foreign air, if one uses the appropriate tools, for example the proxy breathing service Anonymouth. “It’s only a minor nuisance,” mumbled blogger Davesgonechina from within his portable Hyperbolic Chamber.

“Foreign air is often very yellow, very violent,” croaked one official at the Ministry of Information Industries wearing a white mask during a Reuters interview, “and is not conducive to a harmonious society. Therefore we are doing our best to protect the Chinese people from its malignant influences.” He then turned blue and collapsed to the floor.

…And the Same Goes For Us

Via Imagethief, Xinjiang scholar James Millward has some PR advice for the PRC. As Imagethief points out, good PR is 90% commonsense, which why I feel that for Professor Millward’s six points for China, there are six corollaries for the rest of the world:

▪ Remember that what you say to a Chinese audience is heard by the world audience

Likewise, remember that what you say in English is often heard by a Chinese audience. I’m looking at you, Jack Cafferty.

▪ Consider how your statements sound in English

I’ve previously written about how Steven Spielberg missed an opportunity to address the Chinese public in Chinese about his concerns when he withdrew as an adviser to the Beijing Olympics Opening Ceremony Committee. Similarly, Twofish has pointed out the language used in the English version of Dalai Lama’s appeal to the Chinese people has alot of conversation stoppers in it. The Chinese version doesn’t, but see Rule #1. If the two contradict one another, you’ll look like a hypocrite.

▪ Don’t employ ancient or strained historical arguments about territorial questions

Here we start to drift away from literal reversals of these rules. Western critics typically do not cite medieval princesses when giving its perspective on Tibet or Xinjiang. There isn’t a Western “5,000 years of separatism” argument. But if you buy the China “dog years” theory, then in the hyperkinetic temporal distortion that is China, a dude in the street in 1989 is ancient history. And we all know that image is burnt into alot of skulls. It’s not in China. So either you’re going to have to go through the enormous effort of convincing these people that something they never heard of happened the way you say it did, or if they have heard of it, they’re gonna say that was sooooo 19 years ago (approximately 163 China years).

▪ Do consider more recent and more realistic historical precedents

In the case of something like the Lhasa incident, it would serve Western critics well to place it in a contemporary Chinese context. For instance, there has been plenty of other riots and demonstrations in China the past few years. Had the emphasis been on this being yet another in a long string of mass incidents, except that it had Tibetan citizens instead of Chinese ones, rather than placing it in the context of independence, a narrative that everyone in the West knows implicitly but in China is not only offensive but completely unknown, perhaps it would’ve found more reception (as opposed to the current 37 Chinese people in Shanghai and Beijing who agree with external perspectives). It also makes more sense; Tibetans in Lhasa face a political environment and injustices closer to those in rural Sichuan than anywhere else in the world, save maybe Xinjiang.

▪ Don’t deny that China has problems; instead, see how they resemble those of other countries

I actually believe the opposite advice applies outside of China – stop thinking China’s communist government parallels the Soviets. Learn some specifics. Stop generalizing based on some shallow surface similarities.

▪ Let reporters report: transparency engenders credibility

On American television and the like, I would suggest focusing more on Chinese voices. How about fewer really pale thinktank analysts and a few more Chinese-American community leaders? How about some more voices from the sea turtle community? Make a bigger effort to have Chinese people representing their own people rather than non-Chinese China Hands.

Avaaz, Mateys! Thar She Blows It!

It seems that the relatively new Avaaz.org has decided to launch an ad campaign for a China-Tibet dialogue. Avaaz bills itself as:

a new global web movement with a simple democratic mission: to close the gap between the world we have, and the world most people everywhere want. [“Avaaz” means “Voice” in many Asian, Middle Eastern and Eastern European languages.] Across the world, most people want stronger protections for the environment, greater respect for human rights, and concerted efforts to end poverty, corruption and war. Yet globalization faces a huge democratic deficit as international decisions are shaped by political elites and unaccountable corporations — not the views and values of the world’s people.

Technology and the internet have allowed citizens to connect and mobilize like never before. The rise of a new model of internet-driven, people-powered politics is changing countries from Australia to the Philippines to the United States. Avaaz takes this model global, connecting people across borders to bring people powered politics to international decision-making.

Precisely which model are they talking about? Well, one of Avaaz’s co-founding organizations is MoveOn.org. MoveOn does not exactly have a reputation of making ads that encourage dialogue between opposing sides, probably most famously for the polarizing “General Petraeus or General Betray Us?” in the New York Times. Avaaz also won an award at the Progressive Source Awards for its video “Stop the Clash of Civilizations!”. I have no idea what the Progressive Source Awards are, but it sounds suspiciously like self-congratulations amongst the like-minded.

Avaaz describes their campaign this way on their front splash page:

After decades of repression, Tibetans are crying out to the world for change. China’s leaders are right now making a crucial choice between escalating repression or dialogue that could determine the future of Tibet, and China.

We can affect this historic choice — China does care about its international reputation. But it will take an avalanche of global people power to get the government’s attention. The Dalai Lama has called for restraint and dialogue: he needs the world’s people to support him. Sign the petition below–It has been delivered at Chinese embassies and consulates worldwide, and will continue to grow and be delivered until talks begin.

and then on the campaign page:

The Beijing Olympics are a crucial chance to persuade China’s leaders to support dialogue and human rights in Tibet, as well as Burma and Darfur.

The Olympics are about humanity and excellence. We want to celebrate them, but we can’t while Tibetans and others suffer. Let’s call on China to save the Olympics for all of us — on billboards and ads in major cities, in Chinese overseas community publications, even through a Chinese language internet team.

Our campaign aims to reach out to China and Chinese people to show that we’re not anti-China but pro-humanitarian, and that our desire is to save the 2008 Olympics, not ruin them.

Click on the link at right to see draft ad concepts, and Donate now!

They have a Chinese language internet team! Hey, that’s something I’ve suggested! Unfortunately, this doesn’t sound like a message that’s going to carry well. Starting off with saying the Tibetans have suffered “decades of repression” (What about the rest of China?), which sounds like an accusation, is not good. Moreover, the premise they’re working on doesn’t seem realistic: “China does care about its international reputation. But it will take an avalanche of global people power to get the government’s attention.” Actually, China cares far more about how its own population feels than “an avalanche of global people power”, and right now people are defensively supporting the government. Protests against China have been a PR bonanza for the CCP.

And it gets worse. Check out their draft ads:

OK, all the ads have the same text. This is the only draft ad with Chinese in it. Presumably their translation team will tackle this text. If they produce a different text in Chinese, Chinese viewers will compare it to the English one and if they have any complaints about the English version, the Chinese version will look deceptive. The text is:

As citizens around the world who believe in the Olympic spirit of humanity and excellence, we want to enjoy the 2008 Olympics in Beijing. We welcome a prosperous and dynamic China into the global community. But with power comes responsibility, and we are concerned that we cannot celebrate the Olympics in good conscience while ignoring the suffering of others. We ask China to Save the Olympics for all of us through three reasonable steps: 1: A meaningful dialogue with the Dalai Lama. 2: Securing the release of Burmese and Tibetan prisoners. 3: Supporting a robust peace mission to Darfur.

OK, Avaaz, I’m gonna give you some free advice on why this isn’t going to fly for Mainland Chinese, or alot of overseas Chinese to boot. Pro-China supporters have made themselves very clear about four things: 1: the Olympics should not be politicized. By saying you can’t “enjoy” the Olympics without certain political concessions, you are ignoring or dismissing what they’ve already told you, not to mention making it sound a bit like “or else!” 2: The Dalai Lama is more persona non grata in China than ever before, and to get a dialogue is going to take alot more than an ad campaign. Your previous effort on Tibet, a petition that garnered 1.6+ million signatures, was received briefly on Anti-CNN with the words “is this a joke?” Meanwhile, 5.6 million people have signed the petition on Sina condemning perceived Western media bias regarding Tibet. If there’s an avalanche of people power in China, does it make a sound? 3: Tibetan prisoners are, in the eyes of the Chinese government and many of its citizens, criminals who are justly imprisoned for committing crimes. 4: Darfur is not China’s fault. Now, there is absolutely a need for a dialogue on these issues. The thing is, your ads are not going to open one. Especially this next one:

“Dear China. You’re Almost There. Don’t Blow It.” That just sounds like a threat. Nice one.