The CSS Blog Network

Good News, But Bad News Will Keep Coming

In the wake of the Xinjiang riots, mass casualties and plenty of unwanted press, Chinese leaders were undoubtedly hoping for some good news.

They did not have to wait long. Little more than a week after the Urumqi riots Chinese authorities announced that the Chinese economy had grown by a healthy 7.9 percent in the second quarter of 2009. Compared to the West, this is a spectacular achievement and an encouraging sign for all those that saw the end of the world coming just months ago.

To the surprise of many seasoned China analysts and economists, China’s stimulus package managed to inject much-needed capital into the industrial sector; succeeded in offsetting the worst effects of massive export-industry layoffs by employing migrant workers in government projects, and perhaps most importantly, ensured that government-owned banks continued to lend despite the downturn. Even retail sales rebounded, the government announced, indicating that the Chinese consumer is still feeling confident and secure (unlike the rest of us).

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China Internet Users Surpass US Population

Photo: faungg/flickr

Photo: faungg/flickr

Via The Guardian:

China has more internet users that the entire population of the United States, according to new research by the government-sanctioned China Internet Network Information Center.

The study says that at the end of June there were 338m internet users in China, a 13.4% jump since the end of 2008, and well ahead of the official US population, put at 307m by the US Census Bureau.

But, according to the story, penetration is still relatively low, with China at just over 25 percent and the US at 70 percent.

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ISN Weekly Theme: Yemen

Closed doors in Yemen, but not just in the streets / Photo: eesti, flickr

Closed doors in Yemen, but not just in the streets / Photo: eesti, flickr

In its latest push against press freedom in the country, Yemen held the first press court session over the weekend. According to the Yemen Times, Sami Ghalib, editor-in-chief of the paper Al-Nida has the dubious distiction of being the first journalist taken to the dock, accused of “insult and humiliation,” which is Orwellian-speak for exposing corruption in a government ministry.

But lack of press freedom isn’t the only issue Yemen is facing. This week were highlighting what ails the Arabian Peninsula country and what can be done.

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Hola Mexico: A Post-election Reflection

The Mexican tricolour of green, white, and red , photo:Tracy Lee Carroll/flickr.

The Mexican tricolour of green, white, and red , photo:Tracy Lee Carroll/flickr.

In five weeks from now I will be moving to Mexico.

They say there is no place like home – and indeed, the state of things will be very different from what I know in Switzerland.

People not finding themselves under extraordinary circumstances emigrate because they want a lifestyle that can be best accomplished in their country of destination.

But I guess thoughts about lifestyle and how to best accomplish it would require deeper consideration – especially when it comes to accomplishing it in a country we associate with drug violence, economic problems and …swine flu. I will avoid going deeper and offer simply a brief reflection about the recent Mexican elections.

Has the country reinstitutionalized the revolutionary myth? The Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) took power for the first time 80 years ago, enjoyed seven decades of domination, and has now accomplished a successful comeback. Therefore, I cannot help associating the PRI with the country’s authoritarian past.

When I go back and read James M Malloy words from 1977 about authoritarianism in Latin America, I can only hope that the described states of affairs would not still apply today:

“Mexico’s political system is characterized by patrimonially controlled participation exercised by the political elite based on the underlying assumption of privilege rather than right. (…) The decision-making process is legitimated by massive support from precisely those sectors of society that participate least in the distribu¬tion of benefits: labor, peasants, and Indians. For more than forty years the Party (PRI) has maintained this monopoly by preempt¬ing and institutionalizing the revolutionary myth and by creating for itself an image as the key component of an indissoluble trinity composed of Party, government, and political elite.”

However, things have changed during the past 30 years since Malloy’s writings.

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Counter-Strike, the 10th Anniversary

Counter-Strike: http://www.flickr.com/photos/dragon2309/1374231537/ Dragon2309/flickr

Counter-Strike, photo: dragon2309/flickr

Ten years ago, during the summer of 1999, a piece of software was distributed over the internet to the still small but quickly growing community of online gamers. Counter-Strike, developed by a team of private individuals by ‘modding’ the game Half Life, soon became a mass phenomenon that has fascinated the gaming community and haunted family politicians and authorities ever since.

In Counter-Strike two teams go head-to-head and try to prevent each other from reaching set objectives by killing each other with an arsenal of contemporary military hardware. Back in 1999 that didn’t rise many eyebrows. Neither did the fact that the teams battling it out were terrorists and anti-terrorists and the objective of the ‘terrors’ was to either protect a bunch of hostages from being liberated or to blow up stuff like power plants with a bomb. The terrorists came in various uniforms and fictional groups that had such funky names as ‘Phoenix Connection’ or ‘Elite Crew’ ‘1337 Crew’.*  One of the player models showed a man of Middle Eastern decent with Gaddafi-style sunglasses.

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