Will They Be Able to Google This from China?


I’ve not been real high on Washington Post editorials lately, but this one on Hu Jintao’s visit gets half-way to some important issues.
The editorial opens:

FOR HU JINTAO, the substance of his summit meeting with President Bush today will occur before it ever begins — with the 21-gun salute the Chinese president will receive on the White House lawn. Broadcast back to China, the reception will be offered by the communist regime as proof that Mr. Bush regards Mr. Hu as a strategic partner in managing global affairs. But there’s another signal moment of the day’s events, which will occur just after the Bush-Hu talks. Contrary to the standard protocol for visiting heads of state, there will be no news conference at which American and Chinese journalists can ask unscripted questions.
The White House’s acquiescence to a Chinese demand that Mr. Hu not be subjected to possibly embarrassing queries about political prisoners, religious freedom or censorship of the Internet symbolizes a major element of Mr. Bush’s policy — his willingness to relegate China’s worsening performance on political freedom and human rights to a back burner.

I agree with the editorialist that there should always be questions posed — always. It’s kind of ironic that when this editorial link appears on the screen, one can do a “Google Search” from the press page — something that the Chinese cannot do unless using a filtered Google.
But a couple of points of national self-reflection.
We live in a political age now where the unscripted question asked of a president or cabinet secretary is so unique that it makes headline news in the rare moments one occurs. We live in a time when during the last campaign, Cheney and Bush would attend meetings where only card-carrying “good” Republicans were allowed in the door. We live in a time when the RNC in the last election sent out election literature asserting that Democrats would ban the bible and turn their states into bastions of homosexual sin and the media, for the most part, did little to challenge the leadership of the Republican Party for that outrage. We live in a time when we have quietly watched the largest expansion of “official secrecy” in American history — under a secrecy-obsessed President, Vice President, and Secretary of Defense — except at the moment, of course, when the President wants to tilt an argument his way in a major paper by dumping secrets into the lap of Judith Miller-type journalists.
Hu Jintao should have been compelled to face questions, but the Washington Post‘s lead should have been:

Why should American reporters expect Hu Jintao to respond to questions when our own government mocks the public’s right to know?”

I will be attending the Hu Jintao dinner tonight — sponsored by the US-China Business Council, National Committee on US-China Relations and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
True to the spirit of the Post editorial, the organizers — probably at Chinese government request — are blocking entry of any ‘electronic’ recording devices. So, I’ll be there with pen and paper and will do my best to convey anything worth telling from the dinner.
I wonder if they’ll be able to Google this TWN post from China.

— Steve Clemons


69 comments on “Will They Be Able to Google This from China?

  1. Tom Smith says:

    No way in hell that anyone in China could Google this post. PBS recently had a great documentary on the “tank man” from Tiananmen. They showed that if you google the incident in the US it returns thousands of results for the infamous photo.


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  12. tucker's bow tie says:

    All right.
    We now know that our dear decider gravitates, unbeknownst to himself, towards the revolutionary style of an earlier period. (We nevertheless concede that there are unknown unknowns.)
    However, far-sighted commenters have pointed out indisputable resemblances between the revolutionary programs of host and guest who met at the White House this week.
    We therefore propose that the dear leader of the, uh, People’s Republic become a close ally and strategic adviser for our very own Glorious Conservative Christian Cultural Revolutionâ„¢.
    Indeed, some have taken it upon themselves to re-invigorate the venerable tradition of the Dazibao or Big-Character Poster.
    In honour of the dear leader’s visit, I offer you these shimmering pearls of wisdom:
    Freedom of the Press – The due reward for all who responsibly report the virtues of our great leader
    Democracy Grows out of the barrel of a gun
    Our Energy Policy warms the planet
    No, Comrade – Take My Kevlar!


  13. karen says:

    To Chris from Boca: regarding when will the nightmare end?: I believe the date is January 9, 2009….


  14. km4 says:

    Kai-Fu Lee, the guy Google has hired to run its Chinese operations…
    …Lee appeals to the Chinese in ways that perhaps most Americans can’t understand. The Chinese students Lee meets and employs, he tells Thomson, do not hunger for democracy.
    “People are actually quite free to talk about the subject,” he added, meaning democracy and human rights in China. “I don’t think they care that much. I think people would say: ‘Hey, U.S. democracy, that’s a good form of government. Chinese government, good and stable, that’s a good form of government. Whatever, as long as I get to go to my favorite Web site, see my friends, live happily.’ ”
    We experienced the same sentiment among journalists during our visit (scroll down).


  15. TokyoTom says:

    Steve, I would suspect that the Administration may also be monitoring draft emails, as this news account indicates that draft emails in a shared account may be used terrorists.
    Also, I received an email last week from Falun Gong stating that “extracting organs from living prisoners is common across China” and that this practice is the rule at the special facilities to which Falun Gong practitioners are sent. The same message is at the Falun Gong website. Simply horrifying.
    We’re not abusing our detainees in quite the same way, but it is truly disturbing that the Administration has a similar contempt for public opinion and for Congress and the courts, and has found that the “Long War” on terror – not declared by Congress – to be both convenient justification and political cover for almost the fulll spectrum of its policies.
    The Republicans in Congress have been complicit in the failure to rein in the Administration, for political gain and because rocking the boat may threaten their control over the dispensation of federal cash to favored contributors. Dems have allowed themselves to be cowed by the war rhetoric.
    With Rove until now serving double duty as chief political adviser and chief policy advisor, we can clearly see that for this Administration, policy IS politics – designed to maintain the Republican grip on power. The Administration has found war and other “threats against America”, such as those allegedly posed by gays, along with gerrymandering, voter tricks and disenfranchisement, as convenient tools to secure needed voters.
    While I am hoping for a “Nixon/Kissinger moment” with Iran, my sense from the Hersch story and the protests from retiring generals is that the Administration sees more to gain from an invasion of Iran than from a rapproachment. An invasion would no doubt put Iran’s oil resources directly in our hands – and thus giving us more levers over China, Japan and Europe – as well as providing a welecom distraction from Iraq. Since the military has become identified with Republicans, voters would be reluctant to switch parties. A rapproachment with Iran may pay fewer political dividends, as it would confuse the core base who see the world only in the simplistic black-and-white, Manicheaen terms which the Administration has cultivated.


  16. Tanya says:

    I’m a college student studying in Beijing this semester and, while I don’t know if this post comes up in Google, you might be happy to know that your blog isn’t blocked.
    I’ve actually had very little trouble accessing most blogs from China. Those that are blocked can be seen using an anonymizing portal (like http://www.anonymouse.org). The only page I’ve found it pretty much impossible to see is the BBC News page… plus whatever else I don’t know I’m missing when I use Google.


  17. barrisj says:

    The Napoleon-imitation looks rather as if Boosh were packing, and looking to draw down on the Falun Gong supporter barracking Pres. Hu, just to show him that
    when confronted by protestors, Texas-style justice serves best.


  18. tucker's bow tie says:

    Gaffe City:
    A state visit that really isn’t one.. (but that still got a 21-shot salute worthy of a state visit after the Chinese delegation insisted in a stand-off over White House protocol that apparently went on for several months preceding)
    Come to think of it, maybe that’s why the White House introduced Hu Jintao as the President of the Republic of China – a.k.a. R.O.C. a.k.a. Taiwan!! (The headline news item on the BBC for several hours)
    With this White House, you always have to wonder whether they really are that stupid or that incompetent..
    Perhaps Steve can find out a little more tonight about how they’ve taken to a gaffe of that caliber? Har. Har.
    Next, the shrub does his left-handed Napoleon-imitation (maybe he practised in front of a mirror? – The Jacques-Louis David in question hangs in the National Gallery by the way, only a few steps outside the Bush bubble, on the Mall..)
    A falun gong protester gives the proceedings a little twist.. the press lays hands on her (here it looks like he’s almost slapping her in the face.. then it’s the turn of the secret service…)
    The decider lays hands on his most favouritest commie (‘ever’)..
    Oh yeah, and Kissinger follows the commie around the country, from Everett WA to the White House (just in case?)


  19. chris_from_boca says:

    bush has more in common with Hu than with Thomas Jefferson. i am grossly ashamed of my nation. when will this long nightmare end?


  20. Ben Traverse says:

    No way in hell that anyone in China could Google this post. PBS recently had a great documentary on the “tank man” from Tiananmen. They showed that if you google the incident in the US it returns thousands of results for the infamous photo. The same search in China returns photos of historical landmarks and happy tourists in the square. They also showed the “tank man” photo to four students at Beijing University and not a single one of them had the slightest clue about the story behind the image. One of them even asked if it was a doctored picture. I am a college student myself and can not even begin to imagine someone from my generation not recognizing an image from Tiananmen Square or the fall of the Berlin Wall.


  21. Whit says:

    There’s some good background information on the administration’s China strategy in a very recent commentary by Michael Klare at Containing China.


  22. Lugbolt says:

    I sit and stare at the blank “comment” rectangle. Frustration begins and grows. Defense budget twice that of the rest of the world combined? Corporations free to move toward cheap labor? What is the over-arching goal? To be the world’s policeman, with an economy that relies on war profits?


  23. tucker's bow tie says:

    It’s nice to know that the press, reliable as always, will do its utmost to ensure this administration will not have its carefully crafted message spoilt by just anybody – even where the Secret Service fails.
    And just to make sure, they immediately – and instinctively, I would say – label her “a distraught heckler”. (It’s in the first graph of the NY Times ‘story’.)
    Is Hu Jintao wearing Savile Row? Why else would the Shrub grab him, statesman-like, by the suit jacket..?!
    Btw, did you notice the new hand gesture King Dubya is trying out today? That’s RIGHT!! Try Napoleon for size, Mistah Preznit!
    But maybe he was just trying to repeat a different hand gesture and got his hands mixed up.
    Don’t let anybody tell you there’s no subtance to these ludicrous photo-ops.


  24. Karen M says:

    Karen: I didn’t get to see that scene, but I’d be willing to bet it was about Falun Gong. There was a bit about the sect earlier this week on the NewsHour during a segment on the suppression of information in China. Here’s a link.
    Another Karen


  25. tucker's bow tie says:

    Looks like someone got an unscripted question in this morning. Of course, it didn’t come from the press corps. And here’s the headline to go with it, in remarkable symmetry with Steve’s post.
    But hey, don’t worry, this is as much of a reality-check as the world’s leaders are being subjected to these days.
    Mr. Hu looked at first confused and then hesitated before continuing to speak.
    “You’re okay,” Mr. Bush said to him in a low voice, prodding him on.


  26. karen says:

    Just watched a Chinese protester ruin the pomp and circumstance of Hu Jintaos welcoming ceremony. Now he knows what America is REALLY all about.(although we have to see what happens to her-will she be dragged off somewhere without due process?) Wish I could’ve understood Chinese to know what she was saying but apparently it was something about Chinas supression of a religious group. I’d love to hear a blog on this one…


  27. karen says:

    When Bush and Cheney reluctantly “testified” (not under oath) before the 9/11 Commission they did so under the condition that NO recording devices of any kind be present (not even pencil and paper). So when you say that the organizers of the Hu Jintao dinner are banning entry of electronic recording devices probably at the Chinese govt request, I say don’t be too sure. Worrisome, isn’t it that we’d even have to question this but you said it yourself Steve, this a most secretive administration. And worth pondering too is GWB’s willingness to put China’s worsening performance on political freedoms and human rights on the back burner. Gee, why could that be?


  28. Steve Clemons says:

    Marky — You are absolutely right. There is a third arrest in China linked to Yahoo turning over email records — where someone was arrested for an unsent, “draft” email. Yahoo has given China the reality of an Orwellian dream.
    Thanks for your note.


  29. Marky says:

    I agree 100%, but I just want to point out that google is not the only offender. Yahoo just helped send a Chinese dissident to prison for 4 years. I don’t think Google has actually cooperated directly like Yahoo, but I could be wrong.
    Google is constantly mentioned by the right wing, for political reasons—probably because Rupert Murdoch is chummy with the Communists.


  30. blogwonk says:

    Awesome post. I come here every day to read searing insights like this. Whether I disagree or agree with you Steve, your blog makes me THINK more than any other on the internet.
    You are the Charlie Rose and the Larry King of the blogging world, and I mean that favorably — even the King part.


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