Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Internet Access, Climate Calamity, and Politicking

It's been a while since I've had the time to sit down, type "China" into Google News, and read about what's going on in the country. Maybe it's because I haven't been online in a while, but I was really intrigued by a number of articles today.

First, an article from the Los Angeles Times on the newest of China's netizens - low-paid workers:

Image from

Reporting from Shenzhen, China - When Jiang Dabao lost a hand to a molding machine three years ago, his boss said he wasn't eligible for workers' compensation. Unemployable, Jiang whiled away his days in the Internet bars that thrive in China's manufacturing heartland.

Eventually he tapped into QQ, a popular social networking service, where he found a worker advocacy group that helped him win a $30,000 settlement, said Jiang, who identified himself by his childhood nickname for fear of official reprisal.

Forums have become the Chinese proletariat's equivalent of Facebook or Twitter and are seen by some as the beginnings of a labor movement.

Authorities and factory owners are eyeing the networks warily. Sites dedicated to grievances have been shut down, and stories about worker rallies are regularly deleted, according to labor advocates. The QQ forums are capped at 100 users, making mass mobilization more difficult.

Still, the potential remains for groups to organize through social networking.

Authorities alleged that exiled separatists used the Internet to urge ethnic Uighurs to riot in China's western Xinjiang province in July; the government cut Web access in the region for days.

"Nobody can predict when the Chinese working class will have uproar. It may be once in a lifetime, but if it happens, it will change everything," said Jack Qiu, a professor at the Chinese University of Hong Kong who follows the Internet in China.

Until a few years ago, factory workers missed out on the Internet boom. But that changed with the explosion of Internet cafes and cheap cellphones that enabled users to go online.

Read On
It's great that new technology is giving the bottom rung of China's society the opportunity to get online. China is going to continue to clamp down on its country's internet as much as possible. But I like to think that the more people that get online and get used to having a voice the better. It'll be harder for the powers that be in China to restrict people the longer people are used to having the ability to enjoy some degree of freedom online.

Second, an article from AP on the future of climate change:

Image from The Guardian

BEIJING — If China's economy continues to expand rapidly and rely heavily on coal and other fossil fuels until the middle of the century, its power demands could exceed what the entire planet can withstand, according to a study by government think tanks released Wednesday.

The two-year study, supported by the U.S.-based Energy Foundation and the international environmental group WWF, also said if China's energy usage structure remains unchanged, its emissions of greenhouse gases blamed for global warming would reach 17 billion tons a year by 2050. That would represent 60 percent of total global emissions and three times China's current production, it said.

"If the current mode of economic development drags on, the scale of China's fossil fuel consumption will be shocking," said the study, titled "China's Low Carbon Development Pathways by 2050."

The researchers said global warming will challenge China more than many other countries, with its developed east coast cities contending with rising sea levels, and already drought-prone agricultural areas suffering further water shortages.

Read On

I've talked before about the contradiction/irony/tragedy of climate change. The West has been developing and industrializing for two hundred years, yet now it is China's recent growth that may very well push the world past the brink. The West been enjoying the fruits of industrialization for generations, yet now that China is getting there, there's a climate crisis and they can't use (is pillage more appropriate?) the Earth in the same way already industrialized nations have.

I'm not saying that China shouldn't change or that the West is evil or anything. I just think the whole situation is pretty interesting when broken down.

Third, an article from Asia Sentinel on the things being discussed at China's annual CCP Plenum:

While most plenary sessions of the Chinese Communist Party's Central Committee – usually held once a year – merely endorse decisions made by the supreme Politburo Standing Committee, the plenum now taking place in Beijing deserves special attention.

Party insiders say Vice-President Xi Jinping, 56, may be promoted to the vice-chairmanship of the CCP's Central Military Commission. This will not only confirm Xi's status as Hu's successor as party general secretary and state president, but also spell a bonanza to the political fortune of the "Gang of Princelings" – the offspring of party elders – that Xi heads.

Xi, the son of former vice-premier Xi Zhongxun, does not come from the Communist Youth League faction led by President Hu Jintao. And Hu, who has been military commission chairman since 2004, has maneuvered to delay Xi's induction to the policy-setting military organ. One reason is that while the princelings are heavily represented in the top echelons of the People's Liberation Army, very few youth league affiliates have attained senior ranks in the defense forces.

Within the standing committee put together at the 17th Party Congress in late 2007, Xi outranks long-time Hu protégé Li Keqiang, who as First Vice-Premier is expected to take over from Wen Jiabao as premier in 2013. It is understood, however, that Hu has hoped to delay Xi's induction to the military commission so as to allow Li, a former party boss of the Youth League, time to build up a power base at the top.

However, recent events in Xinjiang, in which more than 200 people were killed in ethnic violence since early July, have dealt a blow to the Youth League faction. The bulk of the top cadres running Xinjiang and Tibet, including their party secretaries, respectively Wang Lequan and Zhang Qingli, are veteran youth League affiliates.

Read On
I have a hard time getting excited about Chinese politics. But succession debates and possible grabs for power at the top are always gripping theater.

Given how chaotic things have been for China recently (really for a couple years now), I'm not surprised that a serious look at what's going on with China's power structure is happening. I wouldn't think that the upheaval and general "disharmony" that's taken place over the past couple years in the Middle Kingdom is sustainable.

Well, this coffee-induced news round-up has been fun!


Anonymous said...

Great roundup. I'd like to comment quickly about that second story. What an incredible photo of all that industrial spew.

The irony you point ou,t is as you well know, a common argument over in China. The West didn't worry about the environment during their economic climb, why should China be burdened. It feels to me that argument is becoming an old fashioned way of thinking in China and that China is warming very quickly to the idea of being a world leader in green technology.

Its things like that which give me hope for China. China may become a world economic superpower soon, but in order to be a leader, there are so many social issues which need a break from old fashioned thinking.

Ramesh said...

Nice roundup of three very topical issues in China. Although there is complete opacity on the third issue, obviously, there seems to be gripping stuff going on backdoors.

Incidentally The Net Nanny has found a new technique to harasss the poor netizen. They don't block the title page of a site, but everything else is blocked ! They have inflicted this on google. So even a simple thing as a search is proving to be a royal pain.