News & opinion on Greater China and the even Greater Beyond: by Biff Cappuccino.

Friday, May 19, 2006

The Mysterious "Internet Police" Surfaces: "The Internet police cartoon figures are present at Shenzhen News Net, Shenzhen Hotline, QQ and more than 100 major forums in Shenzhen," said worker Wang Ke to this reporter. "They are on duty twenty-four hours a day, and they guarantee that they will respond to reports or requests from netizens."
"The main purpose is to warn people and to deter irrational behavior and harmful information on the Internet," explained Xu Qian. "Jingjing" and "Chacha" have cute images, they have police officer status, they are friendly and they are easy to accept."
Xu Qian and Wang Ke are Internet police officers at the Internet Security Supervisory Department of the Shenzhen Public Security Bureau. In the past, they were just "lurking" in the dark at the forums and watching the Internet netizens bustle around. The netizens had not even been aware that they existed.
Presently, more than 100 Internet police officers have formed a large Internet force of "virtual police" and they have stepped out into the open. On the Internet, they now have the two cute image spokespersons, "Jingjing" and "Chacha."
"The keyboard and the mouse are our weapons." The thin Xu Qian looked more like a shy university student than the traditional stern and stout police officer. His office is set up like a commercial company office: central air conditioning, three rows of twelve cubicles separated by blue-and-white boards and everybody watching their computer screen quietly. On the desk, there are no mountains of case files. The setting is simple: one 17" LCD monitor, one 16-line green notebook and one telephone.
Shaolin today has been reborn as a well-oiled corporation, with holding monks with master of business administration (MBA) degrees sorting out temple management issues on cellular phones, presided over by an abbot the local media call the "CEO of Shaolin".
..."In a globalized world we need our monks to be able to communicate in different languages," says Shi. He adds that about half of the temple's 200 monks speak a foreign language. English, Korean and Japanese are the most popular, and a few have even learned Farsi. Currently more than 10 monks are taking degrees abroad. The abbot's latest commercial venture is the production of an international, televised martial-arts contest, the winner of which will star in a series of movies the temple is investing in.
Each day, tens of thousands of communist Chinese peasants stream into Macau, the Las Vegas of Asia, to bet their entire lifesavings in the hope of a better future.
...Her route takes her through streets lined with jewelers and pawn shops, where winners show off and losers go begging, where bleach-blonde Ukrainian women saunter from one pimp to the next and young girls from all over China take their new breasts, recently enlarged for 4,500 yuan (€450) a piece, for a walk.
...Despite her devastating losses, she still believes Macau is the better China and that it offers a better life. She's certain she'll return to Macau as soon as possible. And that the next time she'll make her fortune. She eats a small bowl of noodles in a Taiwanese soup restaurant underneath the girders of the city's elevated highway, where waitresses standing at the tables yell out their orders to the kitchen, as loudly as if they were calling the police. She is here to say goodbye to Wei Quihua, a short, good-humored woman who became her friend within a few days. Wei bet and lost 100,000 yuan (almost €10,000) -- the entire capital and earnings of her lamp shop back home in Jiangxi Province.
...Nanchang's beautiful people have no idea who Zhou Enlai was. They too have only heard about Mao in passing. To them, "communism" and "party" are nothing but words, and phrases like "socialist market economy" are concepts they find difficult to comprehend as they sit in the C Straits Café, drinking latte macchiatos and gazing down at the city's lake, where the elderly still perform their Qi Gong gymnastics in formation every morning, just as they've always done.
Saving Seoul: Pollution is ruining the quality of life in much of urban Asia. But Seoul's transformation into a greener city proves the tide can still be turned.
... Seoul—a city long synonymous with unchecked urban development, where Parks were more commonly found in the phone book than on the streets—is growing green. Besides the restored Cheonggyecheon, which opened last October, the city has helped plant some 3.3 million trees since 1998 and recently developed Seoul Forest, a $224 million patch of urban woodland comparable to London's Hyde Park. A cutting-edge, clean-running transit system is slowly weaning Seoulites off their auto addiction.
...Rising incomes play a part in the priority shift, but Kim Won Bae, a director at the Korean Research Institute for Human Settlements (KRIHS), a Seoul-based think tank, traces the change back to disasters like the collapse of the shoddily constructed Sampoong department store in 1995, which killed 501 people, and the economic crisis of 1997. "Those events made a lot of people think again about what economic growth was all about," he says.
...Won Bae of KRIHS tells the story of visiting Shanghai and meeting a Chinese urban planner who had a burning question: how many 100-m-high or taller buildings did Seoul have? "I asked her why she asked that," he says. "She was still in the age of triumphalism. Seoul was once in that period as well, but we have passed it."
Iran used stocks of high-quality uranium gas from China in order to hasten a breakthrough in enrichment for a programme the West fears could be hiding nuclear weapons work, diplomats told AFP. "The Iranians have sought to accomplish a technological achievement for political purposes and chose the Chinese feedstock gas because of its quality, which ensures a better (uranium) enrichment process," said a diplomat with access to intelligence sources.

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