A Bizarre Power Triangle: Sina, the Government and Chinese Netizens

“Sometimes a penguin’s scarf is not a fashion accessory”[zh] (The figure on the left depicts Sina Weibo, and the penguin represents another microblogging siteTencent.) Image my Flickr user Inmediahk, used under CC BY-NC 2.0

“Sometimes a penguin’s scarf is not a fashion accessory”[zh] (The figure on the left depicts Sina Weibo, and the penguin represents another microblogging site Tencent.) Image uploaded by Flickr user Inmediahk, used under CC BY-NC 2.0.

Before considering the rather bizarre power triangle that has come to define Internet communications and technology in China, it is important to introduce the three characters in this story:

Sina: China’s leading Internet company which is traded on NASDAQ, owns Sino Weibo, the Chinese social network often described as a Twitter-like microblogging site, though it is more like a hybrid. Sina Weibo claims to have more than 300 million registered users.

Chinese government: since the advent of the Internet in China more than a decade ago, the Communist Party (CCP) has both embraced the new technology and issued a number of policies that show its fear of it. With the CCP’s leadership transition [pdf] scheduled for next October, the government has launched special measures to tighten control over social media that highlight this contradiction.

Chinese netizens: love Chinese social networks. Contrary to Western perception, China’s netizens do not appear to miss Facebook, Twitter or YouTube (all three are blocked in China). However, Sina Weibo users get angry when their online activities are disrupted. » More

‘Small’ Georgia Takes on ‘Big’ Russia with New Media

Image uploaded by Flicker user Summersso CC BY-ND 2.0

Image uploaded by Flicker user Summersso CC BY-ND 2.0

Georgia is your typical small state: it has a tiny population, a developing economy, and territorial disputes with its largest neighbor Russia. In August 2008 when, Russia briefly invaded the tiny country, no one was particularly surprised that Georgia was unable to counter this show of force.

A small state by definition cannot project sufficient military or economic power to meet a security threat. Since such “hard power” options are unavailable to them, small states are often left with “soft power” as an only means of influencing their adversaries. Soft power comes in many flavors, including public diplomacy and propaganda, traditionally costly endeavors. Fortunately for Georgia, soft power is easier to exercise in an age of global communications. » More

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Occupying the Patriarchy: Women Seek to Remake Occupy in their Image

Women say no to war

Women at Occupy Wall Street, New York, 30 September 2011. Photo: Cedrus.k/flickr.

Since its inception, feminism has sparked controversy, and eventually developed an image of militancy and extremism. As a result, women who may otherwise agree with feminism’s goals shy away from adopting the label, leading some to argue that feminism was no longer a relevant school of thought for young women. And yet, issues important to the lives of these young women only grew in importance during the recession: gender disparities in wages continue, while women’s unemployment rate stays stubbornly higher than men’s; controversy over the Affordable Care Act targeted women’s basic health care. Suddenly, something changed. Feminism was no longer about burning bras and unshaved legs; young women began rallying—against victims of rape being called sluts, against the scorn of the political right and the savior complex of the political left, and for a complete systemic re-analysis. » More

The Logic of China’s North Korea Policy

DPRK: train from Pyongyang to Dandong

Train from Pyongyang to Dandong. Photo: kwramm/flickr.

US and South Korean analysts are annoyed and frustrated by China’s policy toward North Korea. In their eyes, Beijing’s policy not only jeopardizes the security of the US and the ROK and undermines international norms, but is detrimental to China’s own national interests as well. But judgments about whether China’s North Korea policy is illogical or self-defeating depend very much on what people see as China’s goals. Most Chinese analysts would argue that China’s policy has its own internal logic; whether the US and South Korea see that logic is a different matter.

The widely accepted assumption is that China has three goals when it comes to North Korea: stability (no implosion and no war), peace (diplomatic normalization between the US and North Korea), and denuclearization/nonproliferation. Among these three, China prioritizes stability over peace and denuclearization. The secondary status of denuclearization is a sore spot for Washington and Seoul, which see it as the most important goal (or should be). And while different priorities lead to different approaches, North Korean actions have been destabilizing. Therefore, China’s strategy is counterproductive in terms of its own priority, hence illogical. » More

Sea of Japan vs. East Sea

Old map of the "Mer de Corée", which is nowadays widely called the "Sea of Japan"

"Sea of Japan", "East Sea" or both? Map: Wikimedia Commons.

With 16 history professors, diplomats and maritime officials, South Korea sent the third-largest delegation to the 18th International Hydrographic Conference, in Monte Carlo, in April this year. In this case, however, strength did not lie in numbers:  At the summit, the International Hydrographic Organization (IHO)rejected Korea’s request to use the name “East Sea” alongside the established “Sea of Japan” to designate the body of water that lies between the Japanese Archipelago and the Korean Peninsula. Instead, it was decided that the exclusive use of the name “Sea of Japan” would continue through 2017, when the next conference is set to take place.

For twenty years, Japan and South Korea have been involved in a diplomatic spat over the name of the body of water in question – which borders Japan, North Korea, Russia and South Korea – and the dispute remains a source of continued frustration for the Koreans. So far, the naming controversy has not led to a direct military clash between the two countries, but, with Japan continuing to favor the status quo, Korea seems to be stepping up efforts to achieve a name change (either to its preferred option, or to the concurrent use of the two terms), thus politicizing the technical question of maritime name designations. » More

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