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China: WikiLeaks, North Korea and Internet freedom

Out of the American diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks relating to China, perhaps most revealing are cables telling of Chinese government views of the country's relationship with North Korea and the its leaders themselves. Even at the time of their release, following the Dandong shooting incident and shelling of Yeonpyeong island this year, some Chinese netizens had come to see North Korea as something of a negative asset.

As columnist Xin Lijian noted late last month [zh], the total import-export volume between China and South Korea in 2007 was USD 159.9 billion; trade between China and North Korea, on the other hand, totaled USD 27.9 billion in 2008 and showed signs of decreasing through most of 2009. Then there's the vast subsidies sent to North Korea each year, paid for by Chinese taxpayers. Sina blogger Yao Xiaoyuan asks, is this friendship still worth it?

一则据说的最新消息说,维基解密::中国准备放弃朝鲜,,新一代领导人倾向支持南北韩统一。在我看来,如果属实,这是一则好消息。
[…]
韩战之后,中国一直为朝鲜的国内灾害、饥荒、扩军备战买单不说,还要为其发展核武器、惹是生非、耍流氓、搞无赖买单。如果再不停止做这种冤大头行为,总有一天,中国会因为朝鲜而大出血![…]中国自己的麻烦已经够多,为朝鲜买单的愚蠢行为,该被停止了!

Supposedly the latest news from WikiLeaks: China is preparing to abandon North Korea, and the new generation of leaders tend to support reunification of the two Koreas. If this is true, in my view, it's good news.
[…]
Since the end of the Korean War, China has foot the bill through all of North Korea's natural disasters, famine and arms expansions, without a peep. While they were developing nuclear weapons, stirring up trouble, playing rogue and thug, China kept footing the bill, still without complaint. If we don't stop letting them take advantage of us, then there's going to come a day when China will have to pay a bloody price for North Korea! […] China has enough problems of its own; paying for North Korea's is just stupid and needs to stop!

However, as Yan Shanxue notes, does North Korea remain just as useful an asset to China as it does to the United States and its East Asian allies?

延坪岛事件发生后,日美韩3方在对朝施压的同时均一致强调:“必须让对朝有重要影响力的中国发挥积极的作用”,无形中把压力球抛给了中方——“你是朝鲜的后台,你看该怎么办吧”。

不料中国突出奇招,要求六方团长坐下来一起商量对策。

对此,《朝日新闻》称:“本想逼着中国对朝鲜施加压力,从而进一步孤立朝方。可结果是‘中国提案’把球踢回来了。”

Following the Yeonpyeong Island incident, at the same time that Japan, America and South Korea have been putting pressure on North Korea, they've also been unanimous in emphasizing that “China, with its strong influence over North Korea, must begin taking a more active role,” deftly throwing the pressure back over to China's side—”you've got Korea's back, so it's up to you to make the next move.”

Seemingly out of nowhere, China the unexpected move of calling for renewed six-party talks to discuss countermeasures.

In response to this, Asahi Shimbun wrote, “The plan was to force China to put pressure on North Korea, thus further isolating North Korea. China's proposal, however, kicks the ball back to the other side.”

The flip side to that, notes ‘Battlefield Blade’ at the nationalist-friendly Huanqiu blogging community, is how conveniently these cables set the tone for an escalation in measures against North Korea:

国际问题学者分析指出:“当年伊拉克战争,美国人收集的情报称伊拉克藏有大规模杀伤性武器,从而误导了政府决策。因此我们也不能对于‘维基解密’的文件过度迷信,应当高度存疑。尤其在当下,朝鲜半岛局势紧张,西方大肆渲染所谓中朝秘闻,将对局势产生不容小觑的影响,它们尤其可能发挥挑拨中朝关系的作用。”

Scholars of international politics have pointed out that “When the Iraq war began, intelligence Americans had collected suggested that Iraq was in possession of weapons of mass destruction, which misled the government in forming policy. Which is why we can't blindly believe what's in these “WikiLeaks” files, and ought to maintain a high degree of doubt. Especially given the situation today; with relations on the Korean peninsula so tense, the impact the West's gross exaggeration of a so-called secret pact between China and Korea will have on the situation cannot be underestimated. In particular, the leaks might even have the effect of stirring up relations between China and North Korea.”

Skipping the many conspiracies arising from the North Korea cables, if it's not in China's best interest, as one cable suggests it is, to see unification on the Korean peninsula, then in whose must it be? Answering that is Sina blogger Dao Feng:

暂不考虑朝鲜出于自卫还击韩国这件事情本身,先谈谈什么状态下的朝鲜符合中国的国家利益。在美国咄咄逼人的炮舰外交攻势下,很难想象一旦朝鲜陷于战争之中以及被美国入侵之后,会出现一个比目前伊拉克局势更加乐观的朝鲜,那种成天无数人体炸弹阴云笼罩下的伊拉克其周边的国家会安宁么?如果中国周边出现一个这样盛产人体炸弹的国家,中国如何自处?或者像美国宣传朝鲜是世界毒品制造主要国家的那样,再出现一个如同被美国势力掌握后的越南、柬埔寨和老挝那样的毒品环境,中国何以为安?

Without getting into whether or not North Korea was defending itself and retaliating against South Korea, let's first look at in which sort of state would be a North Korea be in China's best interest. Faced with America's aggressive gunboat diplomacy offensive, it's hard to imagine that if North Korea were to enter a state of war and then be invaded by the United States, there would appear a North Korea in any better shape than the Iraq of today. With countless suicide bombers darkening the sky there day in and day out, do the countries neighboring Iraq feel at ease? If a country bordering China began teeming with suicide bombers, what options would China be left with? Or take how America declares North Korea to be one of the main drug producing nations in the world; if another drug-filled environment held by American forces like Vietnam, Cambodia or Laos were to appear, would China be safe?

还是要再深究一下,美国政府的主要敌人是朝鲜吗?是个人都知道,中国、一个团结的中国、一个繁荣昌盛的团结在中国共产党领导下的中国才是美国政府的主要敌人。从太多的美国政府发表的言论中,都可以得知一个准确的信息,即只有一个分裂的中国,一个没有核心领导维护中国国家利益的中国,一个由买办阶级统治下的中国才是符合美国政府利益的,美国人可以这么看这么做,中国人不能这么看这么做。因为中国人有自己的国家利益,中国的国家利益与美国政府的利益是针锋相对的。

It's worth further consideration: is North Korea America's biggest enemy? As everyone knows, China, a united China, thriving and prosperous under the leadership of the Communist Party, is the American government's true enemy. From the many opinions expressed by the American government, one thing we know for sure is that only a divided China, a China with no core leadership able to uphold China's national interests, a China ruled by a comprador class, would be in line with American interests. Americans are allowed to do what they see fit, but not us Chinese. But China has its own national interests, and China's national interests are diametrically opposed to the interests of the American government.

Julian Assange, from Flickr user Jose Mesa

The American government's response to the leaking of the cables, as well as actions taken by Amazon, PayPal, EveryDNS and MasterCard, were not only widely reported upon by Chinese media, but they also call into question the validity of arguments made for broad freedoms across the global Internet. Launching into that is Sina blogger Liu Yang:

如果阿桑齐揭示的秘密都是真实的,被泄密、被揭露的国家虚心接受监督就完了,何必还要气势汹汹?用“国家机密”这个托词来反对阿桑齐也没道理。首先以美国为例,水门事件也是因为有人向媒体泄露机密而导致尼克松下台。其次,人们说透明化和公开化是民主的基本要求之一,美国为何要隐藏很多机密不让民众知道?
[…]
一旦有阿桑齐这样的人开始揭露真相,美国等“受伤害”的国家,因为都是同一利益共同体,于是便不论是非对错,不论真实与否,只想把阿桑齐这个监督者的嘴巴封起来。我们还是回到老问题:如果阿桑齐的嘴巴真的被封了,国际社会的民主监督、舆论自由如何体现?维基泄密的行为,只是民主监督和言论自由的具体体现之一。如果连这点都做不到,对于美国的国际活动,谁能实施监督?人们是否可以说:美国在国际社会不需要监督?

If the secrets that Assange has leaked are true, then countries who have had their secrets leaked and exposed should just be modest, deal with the scrutiny, and move on. Is there a need for all the aggressive posturing? Using “state secret” as an excuse to fight Assange, it makes no sense. Taking America as the primary example and Watergate, the reason Nixon stepped down is because someone leaked state secrets to the media. Further, people say that transparency and openness are one of the fundamental requirements of a democracy; so why does America want to keep so many secrets, and keep the public from learning of them?

The minute someone like Assange began revealing the truth, America and other “victim” nations, given that they are all share the same interests, started off not by discussing the right or wrong or what's truthful [in the leaks], but only seeking to shut the scrutinizer Assange's mouth. So we're back to that old question: if Assange does get shut up, how then will democratic supervision of and freedom of expression throughout the international community be realized? WikiLeaks’ actions are merely one aspect of democratic supervision and freedom of speech. If even this cannot be allowed, who then is capable of monitoring America's international activities? Can people now say that America needs no scrutiny of its presence overseas?

The Chinese government hasn't, as has been reported, cracked down this week on Wikileaks-related content, but with the measures taken by the US government to contain the spread of the cables normally reserved for Chinese Internet censors, has Internet censorship in the name of national security gained greater legitimacy? Writing on these new challenges to #netfreedom is Across the Great Wall blogger Steve365:

而这次,当美国众议院指责维基解密为“恐怖组织”,当俄国放言要让其消失,当中国像屏蔽Twitter和Facebook一样将其屏蔽时,并没有多少人指责这些政府限制网络自由。或许,即便在很多坚定地网络自由捍卫者眼中,维基解密的做法,也已超过了“自由”的界限,应该受到控制;否则,一旦事态进一步严重,真正引发现实中的政治、经济纠纷,恐怕这又将成为政府管制互联网的重要理由。

Now, with the American Congress branding WikiLeaks a “terrorist organization”, with Russia stating it wants to make WikiLeaks disappear, with China blocking [sic] the site like it has with Twitter and Facebook, in fact not many people have criticized the actions of these governments in curtailing Internet freedom. Perhaps, in the eyes of many staunch defenders of Internet freedom, WikiLeaks’ actions have exceeded the limits of “freedom” and it ought to be brought under control; if not, they fear, if situation worsens and leads to genuine political and economic disputes, the government will have significant grounds to censor the Internet.

然而,解密行动却没有任何停止的计划,甚至维基解密还有“恐怖化”的倾向:其创始人阿桑奇如今已经和本拉登一样不知所踪了。在未来一段时间,更多的、涉及范围更广的机密文件被公开,恐怕是无法避免的事情。这也提醒着我们,虽然互联网已经存在了近二十年,也一直在追求“自治”,但在目前看来,它还没有能力做到完全自治,现实世界中的政府干预,尤其是法律制约,仍旧是不可缺少的。另一方面,政府们的雷声大雨点小也让我们看见,即便是处理这类问题上有着丰富经验的美国政府,在面对新情况时也会束手无策,他们仍旧没有找到一个治理互联网的合适的途径。至于中国,面对这样的问题,“墙”则更是掩耳盗铃,毫无作用了。

But then, WikiLeaks has no plans to stop, and the group is apt to become even more “terrifying”: like bin Laden, the location of its founder, Assange, is unknown [sic]. In the near future, even more cables, with an even wider scope, will be released; unfortunately, this is unavoidable. But it also reminds us, that although the Internet has existed already for nearly twenty years [sic], it has always sought “autonomy”. At present however, it lacks capability to attain full autonomy, and in the real world, government intervention, particularly legal constraints, remain inseparable. Further, the failure of governments to match all their talk with action has shown us that even the American government, with all their experience in dealing with problems of this sort, is at a loss when faced with new circumstances. They still haven't settled upon appropriate means of governing the Internet. As for China, turning to “the wall” when faced with these kinds of problems, is not only self-deceiving, but also completely useless.

所以,对于那些将互联网视作自由王国的人来说,与其完全与政府、与法律对抗,不如与政府、与立法者一同去探寻互联网世界的边界,去明确互联网与政府各自的权利与义务,并用法律进行保障;这无论是对于寻求自治的互联网,还是对于希望预防互联网给现实世界制造事端的政府来说,都是有益的。当然,这一切需要有法治社会作为前提。

Thus, for those who hold the Internet as a realm of freedom, instead of turning to it to fight the government or the law, they'd be better off siding with the government and legislators in working toward defining the limits of the Internet world, and clearly defining both the rights and obligations of the government and the Internet, which would be guaranteed by law. Thereby, for either an Internet seeking autonomy or a government hoping to prevent the Internet from creating incidents in the real world, both would stand to benefit. Of course, this all presumes a society based on rule of law.

Again, asks Jay Chan, why should America's national security concerns trump China's?

奥巴马曾经说过:谁都不喜欢 别人说自己坏话,但开放的民主自由是发展的前提。(09年访华 演讲)
可笑的是,正是美国施压,亚马逊服务器居然不给维基解密提供承载服务。靠。居然美国也来这招,我还以为就中国有!其实美国也不是什么好货,威胁到美国的信息就给屏蔽了,那那些威胁到中国安全的信息,中国屏蔽有何不可。

Obama once said (in his 2009 speech while visiting China) that while nobody likes to listen to criticism from others, openness and democratic freedoms are the prerequisite to growth. What's funny is that it was under pressure from the American government that Amazon discontinued offering WikiLeaks hosting service on its servers. Damn. Even America does things like that, I thought this only happened in China! Actually, America's not as great as you think; if information that threatens America gets blocked, then what about information that threatens China's security? Why shouldn't China block that too?

More discussion on Internet freedom is needed, writes Sina blogger Flaming Arrow, perhaps drawing upon the experience of a Chinese netizen, but concludes that in the meantime, American efforts to shut WikiLeaks down will mostly likely fail:

很多人对美国公司在政府的影响下纷纷远离维基泄密表示不满。因为从它们对维基泄密的反应可以看出来,在西方国家自称最民主之内:第一,不能以后完全相信并依赖提供网上服务的公司;第二,这几件事说明要审查互联网比想象的要更容易。

即使是美国政府的律师都对和维基泄密打官司成功的可能性保持保守,说明即使法律上政府虽然可能不能对”言论自由”作挑战,但经济上还是可以打伤维基泄密的。但相信在不远的未来,美国政府一定会根据电报门这件事情更改对互联网的管理,还可能更加打击泄露机密的人,到时候不知道维基泄密会是怎么反应。

Many people are unhappy with seeing American companies, at their government's behest, distancing themselves from WikiLeaks. From their reaction to WikiLeaks, in what calls itself the most democratic nation in the West, we can see that: first, one cannot wholly trust or rely on web service-providing companies; second: what these incidents show us is that Internet censorship comes much easier than one would imagine.

That even US government attorneys remain conservative regarding the likelihood of success in a lawsuit against WikiLeaks shows us that while the government might not be able to challenge “freedom of speech” through the law, it can still hurt WikiLeaks financially. But I believe that in the near future, the American government is guaranteed to change its approach to Internet management as a result of these cables, and might even step up attacks against those who leak secrets. It's hard to say, though, what WikiLeaks’ response then will be.

2 comments

  • […] rights ebooks have been around for some time in the world of internet marketing. Although they are very popular among most internet marketers, not […]

  • […] The verbal conflict between China and Japan was just a minor issue when compared with the actual open fire of artillery rockets by the North Korean military at a South Korean Island near the end of November. Following the Cheonan sinking incident in May, Chinese netizens began questioning whether or not China should continue to support the Kim Dynasty in North Korea. The WikiLeaks cables further exposed that even Chinese government officials are reflecting upon official policy towards North Korea. […]

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