Pinocchio with Chinese Characteristics
In this week’s Drawing the News, online cartoonists ring the alarm bell on new Internet regulations, corrupt officials go fishing, and marionettes take on Chinese characteristics.
New Internet regulations, announced by state media in the final days of 2012, threaten to stifle the vibrant world of the Chinese netizenry. The regulations, which include required real-name registration for all Internet users, were announced in a December 18 People’s Daily editorial, which was in turn covered by CCTV’s primetime news show, News Simulcast (新闻联播 Xīnwén Liánbō). Twisting the CCTV report, BrickWeave casts disgraced politician Lei Zhengfu as the News Simulcast anchor in the mock segment “Netizens Call for Legislation to Protect Online Information.” Ordinary people have exposed corrupt officials like Lei through Weibo, forcing the authorities to do more firing and apologizing than they could have imagined before microblogging began.
“Don’t… don’t! I just want to write a weibo…” What exactly does real-name registration mean for Chinese Internet users? Officials say people will still be able to use nicknames online, but that offers little protection from identity theft. South Korea provides a sobering example of who mosts benefits from an online real-name registration system. The ninja inspectors going through this man’s pockets could be government regulators–or cyber-criminals.
Be careful what you wish for. A netizen-turned-puppet asks for a little freedom, but the very tool which could liberate him is used to control him instead.
In “Getting Rich Through Hard Work” (劳动致富), ordinary men fish for their fair share–but the official, sitting on his throne at the tip of the iceberg, has cast his lines with something else in mind. The online public boiled with rage last year at the luxury watches, designer suits, and Italian cars sported by officials at all levels of the government food chain. Bo Xilai’s humble US$1600 monthly salary was apparently more than enough to send his son to Harrow and Oxford. “Watch Brother” was identified wearing at least 11 different watches in various photos. Guangzhou official Cai Bin was caught owning 21 houses, 20 more than the legal limit. The list goes on.
This menacing Pinocchio is not ashamed of the florid lie sprouting from his nose. Like a propaganda poster from the Great Leap Forward, it glorifies a bounty that never existed. Retired journalist Yang Jisheng has just published Tombstone: The Great Chinese Famine, the fruit of 20 years of research about the horrors of the Great Famine of 1960-1962. In Foreign Policy, Murong Xuecun writes that the crucial debate in China today is not how the famine happened, but whether it happened at all. He references Frank Dikötter’s landmark book Mao’s Great Famine, which estimates “‘at least’ 45 million premature deaths.” But, says Murong, “the people who spoke the truth are all dead.” Dikötter also examines the country’s collective amnesia in Foreign Policy.
What does the New Year have in store for China? Will the Party hold the country together, or will an explosive situation of its own making finally burst forth? The first controversy of 2013 has already charged ahead, as Southern Weekly’s editorial calling on China to uphold its constitution was torn to shreds by the censors. Some people like Eric X. Li may argue that the “China model” offers an alternative success story to democratization, but as China’s economy slows and middle-class discontent grows, it’s clear the whole story has yet to be told.
Browse CDT Chinese’s cartoon collection on Google+.