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Tag: Beijing

Emperor Xi: Sensitive Words

Tuesday, 6 March, 2018 0 Comments

Background: A total of 21 proposed amendments to China’s constitution are expected to be adopted by the National People’s Congress in Beijing, and the one with the greatest impact on the future of national and regional politics deals with paragraph 3 of article 79, which would end the current limit of two five-year terms for the president. Deng Xiaoping introduced the two-term limit to prevent the madness that marked Mao Zedong’s reign, and with its removal, President Xi Jinping will be able to rule for life.

Once news of the impending change became public, China’s censors got to work and they’ve been particularly busy removing “sensitive words” from Sina Weibo, a popular platform with some 400 million users. So what’s being banned? Sample:

  • to board a plane: homophonous with “to ascend the throne”
  • Hongxian: Reign title of the short-lived monarchy led by Yuan Shikai, who declared himself the Hongxian Emperor. After popular disapproval and rebellion, Yuan abandoned the empire after 83 days
  • emigrate: Baidu searches for the word reportedly saw a massive spike
  • Another 500 Years for Heaven: Theme song for the CCTV series Kangxi
  • crooked-neck tree: The tree which the Chongzhen Emperor is believed to have hanged himself from

China Digital Times offers a rolling list of “Sensitive Words” that highlights the ones blocked from Sina Weibo search results. As well, there are links to media coverage of this expansion of Chinese tyranny. Example: Emperor Xi’s censors have no clothes by Fergus Ryan at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute blog.

Once upon a time, John Milton wrote, “With loss of Eden, till one greater Man Restore us, and regain the blissful Seat.” The desire for the “greater Man” will not bring bliss to the people of the People’s Republic, however. A new wave of repression is being enacted by a regime that increasingly resembles the one which now rules North Korea.

The emperor with feet of clay


Barbarians And The Civilized

Friday, 10 March, 2017 0 Comments

That’s the title of a stimulating essay by the French writer Pascal Bruckner in the Winter 2017 issue of City Journal. It’s a continuation of the ideas he developed in his 2006 book La Tyrannie de la Pénitence: Essai sur le Masochisme Occidental (The Tyranny of Guilt: An Essay on Western Masochism), which was memorable for statements such as, “Europe relieves itself of the crime of the Shoah by blaming Israel, it relieves itself of the sin of colonialism by blaming the United States.”

In “Barbarians and the Civilized”, Pascal Bruckner argues that “The civilized man must constantly look barbarism in the face, to remember where he comes from, what he has escaped — and what he could become again.” Snippet:

“Today, being civilized means knowing that we are potentially barbarian. Woe to the brutes who think they’re civilized and close themselves in the infernal tourniquet of their certitudes. It would be good to inject in others the poison that has long gnawed away at us: shame. A little guilty conscience in Teheran, Riyadh, Karachi, Moscow, Beijing, Havana, Caracas, Algiers, Harare, and Islamabad would do these governments and their peoples considerable good. The finest gift that Europe could give the world would be the spirit of critical examination that it discovered and that has saved it from many perils. It is the best remedy against arbitrary violence and the violation of human rights.”

Since Le Sanglot de l’Homme blanc (The White Man’s Tears), Pascal Bruckner has fought valiantly against the anti-Western and pro-Third-World sentimentalism of the Left in the West. His Resistance continues.


Cyberwar: Moscow? Beijing? Pyongyang?

Friday, 16 September, 2016 0 Comments

“Over the past year or two, someone has been probing the defenses of the companies that run critical pieces of the Internet. These probes take the form of precisely calibrated attacks designed to determine exactly how well these companies can defend themselves, and what would be required to take them down.” Says who? Says the Chief Technology Officer of Resilient, an IBM company that “empowers cyber security teams to transform their security posture.”

That CTO is none other than Bruce Schneier, and when he talks, people listen. When he issues a warning, people should act. In his blog post Someone Is Learning How to Take Down the Internet, Schneier echoes the conflict of a previous era: “It feels like a nation’s military cybercommand trying to calibrate its weaponry in the case of cyberwar. It reminds me of the US’s Cold War program of flying high-altitude planes over the Soviet Union to force their air-defense systems to turn on, to map their capabilities.”

Fancy Bear But this is not the work of a data fundamentalist like Julian Assange or a data thief such as Fancy Bear, Schneier believes. To him, it feels like a large nation state is at work. “China or Russia would be my first guesses,” he says, although he accepts that the identity of the country of origin for the attacks now being mounted could be disguised.

All this reminds the avid reader of espionage thrillers of the time when a rogue Russian spy warned an MI5 agent of a plot to hack into a top-secret US-UK military satellite system. Tomorrow, here, we follow Liz Carlyle to Geneva as she tracks the moles.


IBM brings Watson to Munich

Tuesday, 15 December, 2015 0 Comments

It would be an exaggeration to say that Germany has bet the farm on the Industry 4.0 concept, but the country certainly is investing a huge amount of credibility along with significant sums of money in its variant of the Internet of Things (IoT). That willingness to take manufacturing into the cloud and beyond got a big vote of confidence today when IBM opened its Watson IoT global headquarters in Munich. The city will also host IBM’s first European Watson innovation centre.

The declared goal is to add the power of cognitive computing to the billions of connected devices, sensors and systems that make up the IoT. The campus environment at the Highlight Towers on Mies-van-der-Rohe-Straße will bring together a thousand IBM developers, consultants, researchers and designers and will also serve as an innovation lab for data scientists, engineers and programmers “building new connected solutions at the intersection of cognitive computing and the IoT,” according to the IBM press release.

Along with the facility in Munich, IBM announced today that it is opening Watson IoT Client Experience Centres across Asia and the Americas. Locations include Beijing, Seoul, Tokyo, Sao Paulo, Massachusetts, North Carolina and Texas. These will provide clients and partners access to technology, tools and talent needed to develop and create new products and services using the cognitive intelligence delivered via the Watson IoT Cloud Platform.

As Thomas J. Watson Jr. once said: “Wisdom is the power to put our time and our knowledge to the proper use.”

Watson


A different kind of vertical

Monday, 12 October, 2015 0 Comments

A fairly recent headline reads: “Tidemark goes verticals, machine learning and benchmarking.” It makes little sense to those who are not familiar with the vocabulary of the information economy and it makes even less sense to those who might have learned English as a second language. I mean, “Tidemark goes verticals”. What’s that about? Actually, vertical is now a standard tech marketing term, and it’s usually used in the plural, to make matters worse.

It’s a very different kind of vertical that interests the American photographer Richard Silver. In his Vertical Churches series, Silver has produced a unique collection of panoramic vertical photos of churches around the world. He created each image by interlacing up to ten photos of the subject and the results are spellbinding. Places of worship in the series include the Wangfujing Catholic Church in Beijing, the Church of the Transfiguration in Krakow, the Holy Name Cathedral in Mumbai, the Church of St. Francis Xavier in New York and the Holy Trinity Cathedral in Yangon.

Vertical church


April 65th and the clocks are striking thirteen

Thursday, 4 June, 2015 0 Comments

As has been pointed out here before, Nineteen Eighty-Four starts with one of the greatest first lines in literature: “It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.” George Orwell’s dystopian novel is set in Airstrip One (Great Britain), which is governed by a corrupt elite of English Socialists who persecute independent thinking as “thoughtcrime”, as the regime’s invented language, Newspeak, puts it.

In China, contemplating the political significance of today’s date, 4 June, is a thoughtcrime and references are harshly suppressed, as are alternative ways of rendering it, such as April 65th and May 35th. On this day in 1989, Chinese tanks rolled into Tiananmen Square and the army opened fire on democracy protesters, killing hundreds. Despite threats by the Communist Party, the bloodshed of 4 June 1989 is being commemorated in Hong Kong today. The minimum that the rest of us can do is keep the memory of the date alive and recall the bravery of the Tank Man.

Freedom


Tank Man on Tiananmen Square

Wednesday, 4 June, 2014 0 Comments

Twenty-five years after the massacre of pro-democracy protests in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square, nothing recalls the horror of it all better than the photo of the incredibly brave Tank Man by Associated Press photographer Jeff Widener. Today, China is seeking to suppress all discussion of the massacre by arresting, charging or harassing dissidents, artists, scholars, lawyers, bloggers and relatives of the victims.

Tank Man on Tiananmen Square


A multitude of memories rescued from death

Thursday, 21 March, 2013 0 Comments

In fast-moving China, people have embraced digital photography with a fierce fervour. The upside of this for Thomas Sauvin is that Beijing is awash in discarded film negatives, if one knows where to look for them, that is. Sauvin does, and in pursuit of his Beijing Silvermine project he spends a lot of his time visiting the recycling yards where they await destruction. Loved this statement of passion: “The birth of Beijing Silvermine in May of 2009 meant the end to this massacre of photographs, rescuing a multitude of memories from certain death.”

“This vast archive of 35mm color film negatives, taken by ordinary and anonymous Chinese, unearths discarded souvenir snapshots, often amusing, banal or intriguing, sometimes awkward, yet above all, undeniably authentic. Silvermine is a photographic portrait of the capital and the life of her inhabitants over the last thirty years.”

Talking of a photographic portrait of the capital, Reuters offers this interactive look at Beijing’s pollution problem. How long can this continue?


The UI, UX and DQ of #London2012

Monday, 30 July, 2012

A great event demands great respect and that’s what the great Dane, Jakob Nielsen, brought to the table before writing his latest column, “Official Olympic Website: UI Silver — but UX DQ“. The godfather of website usability applies his trained eye to the official site for the 2012 London games and gives Lord Coe & […]

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Choppy waters in the South China Sea

Monday, 30 April, 2012

The standoff earlier this month — “Philippines Warns China in Naval Crisis” — between a Filipino warship and two Chinese surveillance vessels was ostensibly about disputed fishing rights in an area of the South China Sea where both countries claim sovereignty. This is about something more controversial than shark fin soup, though. China wants to […]

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The boy who became the pope

Thursday, 19 April, 2012

On this day in 2005, Joseph Aloisius Ratzinger became Benedictus PP. XVI. Fans of the scholarly Bavarian cardinal were thrilled. He was, after all, the draughtsman of the Vatican’s crackdown on liberation theology in Latin America and the perfect intellectual partner during Pope John Paul II‘s courageous challenge to the Soviet empire. And today, seven […]

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