A few days ago it was snowing in Jinan. Again. Which is actually quite bizarre because I’ve heard it hasn’t really snowed very much here in recent years. It snowed a lot this winter and it is much colder now than it was last spring. But it certainly feels like spring today. There are birds chirping like mad things out on the balcony. The willow trees have got small leaves and blossoms are starting to appear on the plum, peach and cherry trees around campus. It’s lovely.
As for the birds, I admit it, I have a soft spot for the little things. Even though they wake me up just after 6am with their chirping and various other noises (caused mostly by their incessant trashing of the pipes and wires for the air conditioner) and poop all over the balcony, I am besotted with them. They are intrinsically cute and I adore them. I started feeding them seed this morning. Before I only used to throw stink bugs out on to the balcony for the birds if I found such things in the house (this apartment is rather more at one with nature than most forms of accommodation in China… birds, bees, stink bugs, cats…). It was a not wanting to interfere with their lives, or create a dependency thing. However, about a year ago when a friend, Robin, was living downstairs, we saved a little baby bird that got stuck on his balcony after it toppled off a wall. Learning to fly must really suck when you get it wrong. Anyway, since then, I’ve had a change of heart about interference. Somebody left a whole pack of unsalted sunflower seeds in my house, which I don’t really like (I like the salted variety), so I put a big handful out on the balcony, along with some water and a bunch of sesame seeds. They’ve totally demolished the sunflower seeds and pecked away at some of the sesame seeds. Not sure about the water.
I am in slight study avoidance mode at the moment. Actually I am supposed to be writing out a report about Google and China that I found on huanqiu.com (in Chinese), which I will then go and translate (well that’s the plan anyway), but the whole thing is making me a bit tetchy. Recently, I’ve been reading some of the comments people leave after news items about China on Yahoo! News. Most of these comments invariably become a whinge about how terribly Obama is doing, or a defence of him, or they just trash China. Then I started reading the comments about the whole Google thing that Chinese netizens have written on huanqiu.com and that was even more depressing because it was all trashing the US and Google. I couldn’t actually care less about who they trashed, but the language was possibly even ruder and more dense than the stuff written on Yahoo!
I have mixed feelings about the whole Google thing. Google agreed to self-censor when they entered the Chinese market. That was wrong, but they did it anyway because, like everybody else, they looked at China and they saw a lot of money waiting to be made. That they have decided not to self-censor after having their accounts cracked into, but stay in China by diverting to google.hk, was an interesting idea, but mostly just hot air, as far as I can see. Maybe it will make leaving easier, but seriously they must have known it would just result in google.hk (or at least parts of it) being blocked in the PRC. I hope that Hong Kong doesn’t suffer pressure because of this. Foreign media have made comments that stockholders have been worried Google services will be slowed down in China as part of government retaliation. That’s just laughable. Ever since I have lived in the PRC, Google services have always been slower than in other countries. Wikipedia, gmail and google searches always take quite a long time. If you use qq or baidu equivalents, they are super speedy. As far as I can see this is deliberate favouritism of ‘home grown’ internet services. And it is not recent. It has always been so. These are home grown companies that happily self-censor, hand over information about users when asked to do so and never kick up a fuss about human rights or other prickly issues. Google was never involved in fair competition in the Chinese market. Furthermore, every time Google had some tiff with the government, access to things like gmail got even slower!
The thing that scared me was that huanqiu.com netizen comments suggested they completely didn’t understand why Google would have a problem self-censoring. Nor did they really seem to want to understand the rationale behind this decision. They put it down to American arrogance (shown through an uwillingness to act in accordance with local laws, fair enough, but then when laws are retarded in my country, we tend to try to have them changed), American companies trying to take over the world and make money, and Americans trying to force their values (including their obsession with human rights) on other countries. There were all kinds of comments like "well, at least our government is honest in its censoring of information, whereas the US government spies on its own people all the time". As far as I can see Google has little to gain by pushing the anti-censorship business except maybe a kind of parting shot as they walk out the door. Google is trying to push free access to information and freedom of speech on behalf of people who absolutely hate and misunderstand them. It’s thankless work. The comments I read showed people fiercely defending the very government that is trying to keep them blinkered or 蒙在鼓里. Their loyalty is commendable, but misguided. It’s depressing. I would like to see transparency in the legal system, see the great firewall come down, see transparency in assets of government officials, see rigorous government enforcement of mine safety, food safety and pollution laws. Is this me imposing my Western values? Is this Western arrogance? Surely it is sympathy more than anything else. I mean, it’s nothing to me. I can just go home if I get sick of it!
Mostly what bugs me in all this netizen slamming of others (whichever news site) is the blind rage and hurling of insults that these people would probably not have the courage to express face to face. In other words, beliefs that they wouldn’t want to be held accountable for. Is it easier to see the world in black and white? Is it easier to hate than to seek to understand? I don’t think so, but sometimes I feel the tide is not going in the same direction as I would like to be heading in.
Oops, I seem to have procrastinated all the way until this afternoon’s tutorial!