This slideshow (photo credits here), I found embedded on Sean Percival’s site really shows how China is giving it their all to impress the world. Despite the many criticisms, they’re putting their best foot forward. I was in Beijing a few years ago, and they were starting construction, had banners up, and were very anxious and excited to host the world.
Today is 8/8/8 a good luck date in Chinese culture, a good kick off for the olympics (the ceremony started at 8:08pm), many casinos are marketing like crazy, and thousands of Chinese are off getting married today (over 16,000 in fact). I’m off to Monterey right now, some friends (non-Chinese) are also getting married. Best wishes global family.
BTW, upon closer inspection, docstock appears similar to slideshare, but it’s not limited to just presos.
(Left photo: Paul Denlinger, Elliott Ng visit me at Forrester, Foster City, CA. If you’re interested in China and the internet, subscribe to their blogs)
Jeremiah: This is the second post from Paul Denlinger (read the first here), who’s living in China, an internet expert and reporting back to us. He provides us the perspective that few can and I’m happy to have his input. Coincidentally, Paul cam by my office with Ellliot Ng last Friday, they’re working on some exciting stuff, and I hope to be part of it later this year. Without further ado, Paul shares some key insights that relate to China’s culture and impact on communications.
China: After the Earthquake, Before The Olympics
For many social media analysts, it’s all too easy to think that social media is all new technologies for the Internet which make it possible for people to meet and share real-world experiences. In China though, it’s not so simple because it’s not just the technology which is new and changing, the whole society is changing, and changing very rapidly.
For many observers, and particularly the mainstream western media, there has been a near-obsession with China’s politics, and when it comes to the Internet, the issue of censorship and the GFW, or Great Firewall of China. For most Chinese, as independent issues, these are much less important than the underlying social trends which have become much more important, and much more apparent. Aside from the much greater prosperity of China over the past thirty years, there is a single greater trend, and that is toward greater openness which has been achieved through cheap and easy communications. This greater openness has not been achieved solely with the Internet, but more importantly, through cheap mobile communications offered through China’s mobile network.
Immediately after the Sichuan earthquake of May 12, most Chinese attempted to reach their loved ones in the quake-affected areas through the mobile network. In today’s China, the mobile phone network is the default method of communications, with the Internet as the second most common method of communications. These networks are changing quickly and melding, with a good deal of the change being driven by strong demand for the iPhone, even though Apple does not yet have a carrier agreement in the country. For many increasingly prosperous Chinese, the iPhone is their preferred mobile device for communications. Less than one year ago, the iPhone came as a status symbol; now it is preferred because it is user-friendly. Ten months ago, anyone with an iPhone would have turned heads. Now, it doesn’t even deserve a comment.
Aside from the tragic damage and loss of life, the May 12 Sichuan earthquake started a cascade of events which brought some social changes to the surface. For the first time, the Chinese government mourned at the loss of life of ordinary Chinese, and at the one week anniversary, even Internet users stopped their Google search queries out of respect for the dead. More than US$3 billion was estimated to have been sent to the homeless and injured in Sichuan through various organizations.
But nothing is simple in China. Many questioned whether the many charity organizations could be trusted with their donations, and some went so far as to buy goods, clothing and medicine, then took them to Sichuan to distribute them to the needy themselves. Other strangers organized themselves on the Internet, forming their own rescue missions to Sichuan.
From the government’s perspective, this massive outpouring of support was a double-edged sword. The unprecedented financial goods and support for the victims were good, but when the parents of dead children chose to ask why their childrens’ schools collapsed while government buildings were relatively unaffected, it chose to interpret this as a threat to the government’s authority and in some cases, tried to shut down discussion. The trouble with modern technology though, is that sometimes it is nearly impossible to shut down discussion, even though government entities control different chokepoints of communications. This put the Chinese government on the defensive, organizing online groups to support the government positions.
This became apparent in late June with an incident in Wengan in Guizhou province, where a young teenager died under mysterious circumstances, and in the ensuing chaos, a police station was burned down. While news of this incident was initially suppressed in China, videos quickly made their way to Youtube where they were viewed by those outside China, who then spread the news back to their friends and family in the country. In response, the Chinese government in Beijing swiftly fired the government officials in charge.
The trend toward more openness, transparency and accountability are not just demanded of the government. More and more people are demanding the same from businesses, and if they don’t get it, they complain quite openly about business practices they don’t agree with.
Today, China is standing at a crossroads. While the Chinese have enjoyed an unprecedented growth in wealth and basic human rights, including the basic right to homes and food, they want and expect more. In many respects, the buildings, roads and infrastructure created over the past ten years are newer and more modern than the US’s very dated and poorly maintained infrastructure. China’s rulers are slowly coming to the realization that building the infrastructure hardware is the easy part; the real challenge lies in building the human software and practices which come with managing a first-world country.
The Chinese government is slowly coming to the realization that as the Chinese people become more prosperous, they are demanding more of their government, including transparency and accountability, and if they don’t get it, some of them are prepared to take action. The society is becoming more noisy, and more democratic, and the Internet and mobile communications have played an enabling role for the people.
Jeremiah: Paul Denlinger of Beijing is an internet expert on China, and I’ve offered him the opportunity to help share from an insiders perspective. Keeping in the theme of internet strategy and how the web impacts business, (and in this case the world) Paul, a resident of China, shares his perspective.
Although a long post, please show him the same respect that you do for me.
Chinese Internet Becomes Platform for Earthquake Grief
The Sichuan earthquake of May 12, which first registered as 7.8 on the Richter scale, has now been revised upwards to 8.0. As of Thursday May 22 in Beijing, the number of fatalities has so far reached more than 52,000, missing are 30,000, while injured are 400,000 and the number of homeless has reached 5 million. The final death toll is projected to be around 72,000. The Chinese government has appealed to foreign governments for aid and assistance, and Russia, Japan, South Korea, Singapore, Taiwan and Hong Kong have all sent teams to aid in the search for survivors in the rubble, and for body recovery. With the huge number of refugees, there is also a severe shortage of tents to house them, and many foreign governments including the US, UK, Russia, Germany and Italy have all sent cargo aircraft to Chengdu, the nearest major city, to drop off needed supplies.
The Chinese government reacted swiftly to the tragedy, with Chinese premier Wen Jiabao flying to Sichuan the afternoon of the earthquake. He won wide praise for his swift action, and was photographed and taped talking and holding newly-orphaned children, telling them that the government would care for them, and would be committed to helping them rebuild their lives. He was photographed weeping when the bodies of two young children were removed from the rubble of their collapsed school. After several days of non-stop work directing rescue teams, making sure that they got all the help they needed, the exhausted Wen returned to Beijing, and was replaced by Chinese president Hu Jintao, who in one of the more memorable scenes, was seen holding an 8-year old boy, and telling his family that the government was committed to helping them rebuild, and to finding the bodies of their loved ones.
Military rescue teams from the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) were dispatched from all of China’s 31 provinces to aid in the rescue effort. The first two days after the earthquake there was heavy rain in the area, and in a few instances, paratroopers were dropped into stranded villages to help the local inhabitants. In one instance a dangerous night drop was made into an isolated village, and the mission was so high-risk that the 15 men were required to write their wills before departure. There continue to be mudslides in the area, and the government says that so far more than 200 volunteers have been killed in mudslides, trying to get supplies to the villagers.
The earthquake struck in a mountainous region of Sichuan, at the foothill of the mountains which run to the west and become the Tibetan plateau. A mix of Han Chinese and ethnic Tibetans live in the area, mostly in small villages surrounded by mountains. The main earthquake struck at 2:28PM, and an estimated 7,000 school classrooms collapsed. Schools were particularly hard-hit since many of the primary school students were taking their afternoon naps, or had just started their afternoon classes. There are many stories of children escaping from their classrooms to their sports field, only to be buried alive when the mountain surrounding the school collapsed on them. For many of their families, their bodies will never be recovered. In other instances, parents rushed to their children’s schools to dig out their children, only to find them dead. In some of the more horrifying stories, the quake was so severe that mountains which were separated by valleys with villages in-between moved together, completely obliterating the villages and their inhabitants.
In most of these village households, three generations of families live together, including grandparents, children and grandchildren, as is the usual Chinese custom. In many of the households, the parents of the children are migrant workers in Shanghai, Beijing and the more prosperous cities of China’s east coast. Upon hearing of the tragedy, and being unable to connect with their families on their mobile phones, they took trains back to Sichuan to search for their families. Many returned only to find that their whole household had been wiped out, or to find that their only child had already been buried in a mass grave. In some cases, there was a single survivor, with no surviving relatives. Most of these people were severely injured, and on learning that their families had been wiped out, said that they too wanted to die.
But then something curious started to happen, something which hadn’t happened before in Chinese society. Strangers started going to hospitals in Chongqing and Chengdu, and started caring for people whom they were not related to, effectively adopting them. All during last week, the news started to spread, not only of the need to send supplies, but also to care for the survivors. Stories of this kind spread quickly though China’s officially-controlled newspapers and television, and spread even more quickly on the Internet, especially Chinese BBSes such as Tianya, which are the most popular community tool for unofficial news. Other popular outlets for information are Twitter and a Chinese version of Twitter, Fanfou. The most popular IM client in China is QQ, which has more than 500 million registered users.
The news spread very quickly about the scale of the disaster, and strangers started organizing themselves online to take supplies to the disaster area. Google China and Baidu, China’s leading search engine, soon created specialized searches for relatives. Then on the weekend of May 17 and 18, some Chinese started designing online memorial sites where visitors could sign a book and give a white flower in mourning for the earthquake victims. These sites were designed and set up by volunteers without any payment from the government or corporations. As of May 22, one site had more than 262,000 unique visitors.
Late on the evening of May 18 Beijing time, the Chinese government announced that there would be three official days of mourning, from May 19-21, and recommending that game and entertainment sites shut down during the mourning period. Robert Scoble interpreted this event out of context and turned a human tragedy into a political event, narrowly framing it in terms of politics and human rights, and suggested that this meant that the Chinese government was enforcing a government crackdown during the mourning period, as could be evidenced from his comments, and those of his followers, on his Friendfeed account.
In fact, the Chinese government’s Central Publicity Department, which is in charge of content on the officially controlled media, was playing a catchup game with China’s Internet population, which is now the largest in the world, as well as the general population of China. As people learned more about the scope of the tragedy, they wanted to do more, and even more, the government sensed that they needed a public outlet to channel their grievance. The problem was that, in China’s long history, there never has been a defined way to remember and mourn ordinary citizens who have been killed in an enormous natural disaster. For this reason, the government prescribed that all cars and citizens would stop where they were on May 19 at 2:28PM, exactly one week to the day from the time of the earthquake, and while air raid alarms sounded, they would stand still for three minutes. They did this on Monday, as can be seen in this Youtube video and this interesting account of the event. Many websites have voluntarily changed their colors to black and white during the mourning period, while some have added the Chinese character for "mourning" to their websites, and many Chinese have chosen to wear black and white during the mourning period. All of this has been done without government orders of any kind; it has all been organized on the Internet through BBSes and people who voluntarily spread the message. Many other sites have set up donation badges to facilitate online donations to help organizations, and there have been blood drives as well. There have also been a few sites, including Google and Baidu, which have created people search sites, so that relatives can look for their loved ones. Most newspapers and magazines, all of which are controlled by the government, have moved to publishing in black and white only.
While younger Chinese have turned to the Internet, older Chinese have devoured huge amounts of TV programming and newspapers, all of which are state-owned and are now fully devoted to reporting the aftermath of the disaster. Unlike in the past, all of this reporting about the disaster is what the audience demands from the bottom up, not what the government wants to give to the people in a top-down fashion. In order to show the people that the government is on top of things and doing its job, state-owned news agencies have been working round the clock to provide news about the situation in Sichuan. When not reporting about rescues, stories detailing the amount of goods and supplies being sent to Sichuan from the various cities and provinces of China form a solid wall of disaster reporting. In keeping with the Chinese affinity for numerical data, precise numbers of boxes sent, trucks dispatched, tons of supplies sent, trains sent, etc. are all reported in these stories. In contrast with the past, Chinese government officials have promised a higher degree of transparency and accountability to the people. Many Chinese have also started openly asking questions on the Internet and on television and radio, including why so many schools collapsed, and if dams in the region may have caused soil erosion.
Whether it is television, print or the Internet, there are endless stories of people living just because they ran a different direction from the rest of their family, or because someone left home on a shopping errand, only to find their home flattened and all their family killed by falling debris. Ever since the end of WWII, China and Japan have had a rocky relationship, but the dispatch of Japanese rescuers to aid the rescue process, has won significant praise and goodwill from Chinese netizens.
Maybe most interesting has been a publicly-driven drive for corporate donations of money and supplies to the earthquake victims. Sina, one of China’s three leading portals, has set up a corporate donation page which lists amounts Chinese corporations have given (minimum amount for listing: 10 million yuan or US$1.4 million). As of the afternoon of May 21 Beijing time, total corporate donations listed on the page had come to 5.58 billion yuan or US$797 million. On the Chinese Internet, netizens have been especially loud in driving corporations to donate more, and in some cases, have publicly attacked corporations for being too cheap in their donation amounts. In most cases, the criticized companies have quickly upped their donation amounts in reaction. Corporations have also looked sideways to see how much their market competitors have donated, and have matched or trumped their donations, sometimes setting off donation bid wars to win praise from the public and favorable PR.
For the past ten days, Chinese have spent most of their time glued to their TV sets or on the Internet, collecting every scrap of information about this huge human tragedy. The outpouring of emotion has been enormous. As the mourning period draws to a close, the next phase will begin, that of reconstruction. Without a doubt, the Chinese Internet will continue to play a major role.
Last week, I tried to inspire you to donate to the China crises by showing you beautiful pictures. This time, I’m going to take a little bit more of a realistic approach. Numbers are often hard to fathom, so images (in context to our lives) can really help to illustrate a point.
If the US had as many homeless as the China Quake, the following high tech cities would have no where to live:
San Jose, Calif. Population: 912,332
San Francisco, Calif. Population: 739,426
Dallas, Tex. Population: 1,213,825
Austin, Tex. Population: 690,252
Boston, Mass. Population: 559,034
Denver, Colo. Population: 557,917
Total: aprox 4,670,000, with a leftover to fill many small cities in America. (such as Oakland, Miami, Tulsa, Honolulu, all in the 300k range)
Shocking? I could have used images of death, despair and crying parents. Sometimes, I think that’s less effective, especially if the culture is foreign, so I decided to use something most readers have in common –home town images.
If you read the comments from the link above, you’ll see all those that lent a helping hand. I know many others don’t feel comfortable saying they did in public, so thanks to the silent donations as well.
Despite the warm and fuzzy pics, the reality is bleak, with 30,000+ dead, an expected 5 million homeless, and the concern over disease and infrastructure collapse still an issue, the work is not done. You can help by making donations to charitable organizations, I’d recommend starting with the Red Cross a long standing organization that I donated to.
You are great, thank you all for being global citizens.
Oliver Ding (Blog, Twitter) has created this slideshare showing how the images inspired others. Please note, this isn’t about me, and I’m not trying to be self-serving, so thank you Oliver, it’s great to see how the web community comes together
In one of my recent posts, I encouraged others to donate, it actually worked, I know of at least 3 people that donated, I doubt I was the cause, as they had it within them to help. I’m sure many others donated, but didn’t want to say anything.
CNN reports that: “The government estimated death toll rose Thursday to around 20,000 but could eventually top 50,000, Xinhua reported.” as of Thursday, so I fear that things will get worse.
I’ve donated again, this time, my donation was more sizable than the first time around.
You know what to do, consider not going out to that nice dinner, and donate that money to the Red Cross, it would mean a lot to me if you donated, if you don’t have money to spare, blog it, tweet it, Facebook it, spread the word, that means just as much.
I’m Chinese, and have been to China a few times, here’s some of my favorite pictures compiled over a few trips, I hope they inspire…
My wife and I, newlyweds, celebrate our wedding with her family in Zhongshan, China.