Wednesday, 3 June 2009

Justifying the GFW but nothing else

I was only 15 when things turned bad in T1ananmen Square on the evening of the June 4th 1989. A snotty nosed high school kid who's world did not extend beyond the confines of a Sydney suburban existence. I certainly didn't know then that twenty years later I would be living and working in the country that felt it necessary to turn its army on its own children.

My memories of that day are fleeting recollections of news stories broadcast in Australia but looking at what China has become since the deaths of the hundreds, perhaps thousands of students then (either by chance or design) I often wonder what would have become if the Government did not do what they did. Would I be living in a democracy now?

Before you read on, I'd first like to make one thing very clear. I do not support the actions the Chinese government took twenty years ago today. This is not a means to justify the use of deadly force against its own citizens. It is simply exercising the 20/20 vision of hindsight.

History tells us that dramatic social and political change often results in blood shed. From Alexander the Great's conquest of Asia Minor to the attack on the World Trade Center in defense against the infidel, there is nothing like the mass loss of life to change perception. When we look at events like 9/11 we naturally think of it as something that changed our concept of security. Even those of us who are not American begin to feel that because terrorism can strike anywhere, we are not safe. The bombing in Bali also brought this home to many Australians. When we look at China, many Chinese in the two generations before mine have a deep seeded hate for the Japanese because of what happened in the Nanking Massacre, similar to how an old English WWII vet might still feel animosity towards the Germans.

It is because of these atrocities that shape the way we as a society think and feel about nations and people. These feelings are not rational or logical but come from an emotional core that is passed on from generation to generation. I even have Chinese friends younger than me that still do not trust the Japanese even though the Rape of Nanking was before their living memory.

Twenty years after the T1ananmen Massacre, students in universities across China now would have been in diapers (or at least pants with an exposed bottom) when the anonymous man in the white shirt stood in front of 4 tanks with his shopping bags. What I see from afar is that this generation of students do not have the revolutionary drive of those left in exile from twenty years ago. They have been taught to know better than to offend the government and for the most part, the affect (from my perception) is that the generation of twenty-somethings now, the age group that throughout history is most vocal about social change, has become strongly patriotic.

Living in China, one rarely hears (or overhears) support for the Dalai Lama or people craving for democracy. In the back of my democratic, conspiracy loving, Orwellian, Australian educated mind I would love to think that this is because they fear what might happen if they harbour revolutionary thought but this does not seem to be the case. T-Shirts with 我爱中国 (I love/heart China) seem to be worn by people who do in fact genuinely love their country.

When the French protesters attacked the Olympic torch, the protests and boycotts in China were not organised by the government. They were organised by citizens appalled by the attack on a wheelchaired athlete. When news of the Great Sichuan Quake broke, normal citizens donated what they could to the cause of saving the survivors. When I think back at these two recent incidents, the only thing that I can think of is that I would do exactly the same thing.

Since the Cold War, and even so far back as McCarthyism the media loves to take the easy road of portraying good and evil. In the case of China, the easiest narrative used to be that the Chinese Government was an evil communist regime oppressing the billion peasant citizens. A narrative that Hollywood would love but by it's nature is flawed simply because evil has no motive. Evil people do bad things for no other reason than because it's evil, and for the last twenty years since the T1ananmen Massacre, there has been no motive to oppress the citizens of China. In fact there is more motivation to further support the Chinese people to succeed to undo some of the stupidity of Mao's Cultural Revolution.

Governing 1.3 billion people requires a huge political machine and throughout China there are abuses of power at various levels of authority. From the local police to municipal and provincial officials. The tragedy that occurred in Beijing though was not the result of these thing. The decision to open fire on protesters, as much as we would like to label this as evil, was not. It was an act of desperation by a government that was backed into a corner. It was about disowning and turning your eldest son over to the police for drug abuse to save the future of your younger son.

I want to reiterate at this stage that this is not a justification or a defense for what the Government did. In fact it is likely that the massacre was a decision made by good people without enough foresight to foresee a potential outcome until it was too late. Using the example again of disowning your elder son to save the younger, it can be argued that as a parent you should have educated and controlled your elder son when he was younger rather than allowing him to navigate the world without enough guidance. Sacrificing a son does not make you a good parent, in fact it makes you a bad one trying to undo a past mistake.

So as I write this post through a VPN (as I cannot directly access my blog, Twitter or YouTube) I am not really that pissed off. Why? Because I see this as the actions of a good parent. One that has learned from past mistakes and is committed to not making them again. And as a son, you know that I will continue to try to circumvent your Great Firewall the same way a real son, against advice and parental guidance, might still try drugs.

So today, the twentieth anniversary of the T1ananmen Massacre, I pray for the families of the dead and oppressed, but more importantly, I pray for the future of china because over the last eight years here, I too have learned to 爱中国。

Tuesday, 2 June 2009

It's finally happened. Twitter has been blocked! #gfwlist

The end of the world is nigh

Posted via email from Dedric's posterous

Monday, 1 June 2009

The Battle in the Cloud

First of all, I'd like to apologise to my readers for not posting for quite a while. It seems that the good folk at the Golden Shield project have been working overtime after the Olympics because the internet freedom we experienced last year has all but been taken away from us poor sods based in China. For the last couple of months, we poor expatriates in China have been deprived of YouTube, Blogspot, Wordpress and it seems that even much of the stuff that is going to my Google Reader has been hobbled.

My plan to develop my own personal blogging empire has therefore been thwarted and I am reduced to posting via Posterous for all my blogs. Sigh!

A shame because in the internet world is in the brink of revolution. Well at least there is a concerted effort to do so. Only last week, the internets have been all a flutter about, Microsofts new search engine which I imagine is a serious effort by the Redmond gang to topple the reign of Google. So far I've seen that bing has had a mixed reception but it will be hard to tell until people start to adopt. Of course bing is much prettier than Google so some people might prefer it to Google as a start page in their browser.

The Google camp have in their strategic move announced Google Wave. My interpretation of this is it is essentially Google Profile on steroids. This could be seen as an attack on the MSN Live front. I won't go to much into this theory (because it's just too convoluted and I am continually interrupted by pretty girls walking by and the noisy table of Hongkies on the table next to me at the Coffee Bean in XinTianDi where I am writing this) but it seems to me that the two juggernauts of cyberspace are in for an epic battle for the evolving cloud.

I'll be first to say that when I first heard about cloud computing it seemed a little sci-fi and brought to mind images of The Matrix and the Lawnmower Man but as the months rolled on it has become more and more viable. As we approached the holy grail of decentralised processing power, the peaces are falling in place for our computing lives to go online and these latest campaign by the two major combatants indicate the changing winds.

Both Microsoft and Google are vying for the dominant position in the future of computing by assembling the battalions most suited to occupy the cloud when the corpses are buried and the gun smoke clears. Take Google for example. If you imagine how Google Wave will work when it is launched, it is an amalgamation of pretty much everything that currently exists. It allow you to post messages, images, video, much like Facebook, FriendFeed and to a lesser degree Twitter. It will then integrate documents for collaboration much like what Google Docs already does and I imagine it provides some kind of control as to how you share all this information which has the potential to replace every other social network in existence. By connecting various components of cloud together it can act like Google Profiles on steriods. The good thing though is that with a public API if Wave takes off it could create a whole new ecosystem of smaller online business that would plug into Waves functionality making Google the essential glue that binds the cloud together.

In the other corner is Microsoft. Almost hiding in plain sight is their Live suite. Document sharing, instant messaging, spaces, photo sharing, MS has been quietly amassing the firepower to create it's own cloud within the cloud. Now the culture of MS is not the most open source and should the victor come from the Ballmer camp then the future of the cloud could be dark, stormy and possible expensive. Sure all the MSN live stuff is free now but because of the closed nature of anything that MS releases, that could all change in a second.

So what does the future hold for the average netizen? On the one hand we may have a cloud occupied by many service providers but held together by Google that (if the wind changes) could tax the web businesses that rely on it to connect to the end user. I liken this to the Chinese government who provides you with certain freedoms but at a moments notice could "disappear" you in the middle of the night. The alternative is Microsoft. A fascist dictator who controls everything you own from day one.

My friends! Understand that your future under threat. Heed this warning because cyberspace needs a saviour. The internet is fast becoming a bipartisan organism with no geographic borders. Who will that saviour be? Who can we trust with our virtual existence?

Disclaimer: Please read this post as you would the scratchings on the walls of a prison cell of GFW penitentiary.

Posted via email from Dedric's posterous