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China:”I am not interested in politics; I am only interested in making money”

Categories: East Asia, China, Digital Activism, Freedom of Speech, Technology

Have you ever heard of the term “Great Firewall” or “GFW” for short? Whom to blame when you have encountered the annoying message “Page Not Found” frequently seen when browsing the Internet in China? An email has been circulating the web recently, calling Chinese netizens to boycott Google, which, the email author claims, censors and blocks sensitive information about “Diaoyutai Island”, or Senkaku Islands, a piece of disputed territory between China and Japan. ESWN has a nice story about this [1] with full English translation of the email.

Many veteran Internet surfers in China, acquainted with Internet blocking scheme, would probably in the first instant identify this message as false accusation and rebuke against Google, or even malicious promotional strategy used by Google's competitors [2], given the fierce competition in China's search engine market [3], because it's not Google but the the Great Firewall [4]built by the government that scans, monitors and resets the Internet connection when particular inquiries trigger off its alert.

A heated discussion is running on IdeasFactoryChina [5](reg required), a mailist maintained by SocialBrain Foundation [6](disclosure: the author is one member of the non-profit organization and it also hosts GVO Chinese Translation Project [7]), concerning how to “promote” the GFW term and made it popular, which can be seen as the pre-condition in order to defeat it. The initial email by the ID “Aether” [8](reg required):


Folks, it is us who has been sealed off the world. We are blocked by a digital Greatwall called Great Firewall. That is the truth….

No need for outcry. No need for blood. No need for killing. All we need to do is to utter our voices calmly and placidly……

Google cannot be searched. Yes, that's because a project called Golden Shield pinched Google's neck. It covers all our voices and lets through only what it wants to hear…..

Such a letter of appeal and calling is not so unusual in China’s blogosphere, a hot spot for gossip and hullabaloo. But the comments followed are really interesting, which can probably stand for the opinion of the majority of mass netizens toward censorship issue:

Comments by Yuk Hui [9] (reg required) :

在國外有許多機構都在關注中國的互聯網政策,但是在國內,大部分人都無動於衷,有些是不知道,有些是無所謂,他們對我說「沒有甚 麼了不起,這是中國自己的事,我們都見慣了」…. 許多中國網民(何止是網民?)都有狂熱的「愛國精神」或「民族主義」,不知道知識的自由,甚至自由本身的價值,這常常使我難過

Many oversea institutions are paying attention to Internet policy in China. But domestically most people are indifferent toward it. Some of them are ignorant of it and some just don't care about it. They said to me:”It doesn't matter. It's China's own business. We've gotten used to it”….Many netizens(not limited to netizens?) have a fever for patriotism and nationalism, without knowing the freedom for acquiring knowledge and even the value for freedom itself. It upsets me.

Comments by Zola [9](reg required):

我困惑的是:GFW里的被屏蔽关键词的选择是否只是个人意志的选择?还是系统性的意识形态的导向? 我们知道,在加密措施花样百出和巨大的信息流量的互联网上,GFW对国家安全毫无帮助,唯一有帮助的是,禁止大多数普通网民了解某些事的假相或真相.

I was bewildered: Are the censored key words in GFW the choice of personal will or systematical tendency of ideology? We have known that traffic on the Internet is so huge and there are so many ways to encrypt information, GFW has nothing useful to do with national security. The only benefit of it is to prevent majority of average netizens knowing the true or false images of some stories.

Comments by CWHung [9](reg required):


Don't forget, the Communist Party of China isn't made of Domino tiles. Many things can not be seen by ordinary people. In addition, I am not interested in politics; I am only interested in making money. So just a reminder: even the so-called goodwill effort might be mixed with “evil intentions”. Take care.

我选的是商业的路,或许以后你们其中有一些能成为中国富强的英雄,但是到目前为止,你们还是一点能力都没有,不是么?做好自己可 以做到的事,可以一起来讨论经验以及从实际出发去做未来的规划,而不是空摆着理想主义来纸上谈兵。如果不理解我所说的话,那就请你有时间的话,回答我一些 很简单的问题,你目前工作是什么?替别人做过些什么有益的事情?对于互联网目前的状况,你有过些什么努力?对于你不满意的社会现状,你尽过些什么责任?

I've chosen the way of doing business. Maybe one of yours can be the heroes of prosperous China in the future, but until now you have no abilities, right? Do something that you are able to do, then you can come to discuss some experiences and practical blueprint for the future, instead of empty talks of idealism. If you fail to understand what I've said, please answer me a few questions if you have time: What's your job now? Have you done anything useful for others?Have you made any efforts concerned with current situation on the Internet? Have you performed your responsibilities for the unsatisfactory society?

我不关心政治,并不代表我不闻不问,只是我知道以我个人能力和活动的范围,并不能去改变什么,所以我能做的,仅仅是做好自己的事 情,在国际的商业往来中努力给中国人塑造尊严,给国内不少怀才不遇的人才创造更好的事业环境,用赚来的钱投入国内的慈善事业。我选的是这条路,你呢?朋 友。

The fact that I am not interested in politics doesn't mean that I am indifferent toward it. I just know that for my personal capabilities and scope of my activities I can't change much. All I can do is just to take care of my own things and try to build esteem of Chinese in business and create a better environment for the talented persons to do business. Then I will invest my money in charity. That ‘s the way I choose, what about you, my friends?