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China Blocks WhatsApp (nytimes.com)
1174 points by GuiA 7 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 618 comments



What the long-term effects will be: China's ruling class further cement their power at the cost of China's innovation and future growth. Interesting and useful things are made when people able share and consume information. e.g. Jack Ma's US visit exposed him to Yahoo. Ma Huateng was clearly inspired by his exposure to ICQ. The list goes on. The same thing happens in the West but it happens a lot more often since there are a lot more opportunities to share ideas with much fewer restrictions.

The end result is that China's fate as being relegated to being the world's giant copy machine is sealed unless things revert

The people who will get ahead in China in the future are the ones who are somehow able to live outside of China to experience new ideas. This is already true, but its importance will grow as China's censorship grows.

The more China closes up, the less Western companies have to fear about future tech dominance or crazy innovation from China in the long run

To be fair, things may even out since Western governments seem to be doing all they can to copy China's censorship and gov control. SOPA, PIPA, SESTA, and the Digital Economy Bill come to mind. I'm sure others can add more to the list.


Alternative:

Innovation happens within the context of Chinas censorship and political regime. Blocking of entrenched western competitors allows home grown solutions to spring up, and local technological know how to develop faster.

Capitalism and innovation turn out to work within the context of an illiberal society just fine. Especially as China avoids the mistake of closing itself off to the rest of the world, but stays integrated in the markets, as well as the academic exchanges.

The Chinese government doesn't stop high tech investment, but only blocks a few select companies that have products that are, at their core, easy to replicate (WhatsApp, Facebook, to a lesser degree Google) at a sufficient level of quality.

Rather than free markets pushing towards a more liberal politics, the Chinese government develops means to make the market optimize for political obedience [1].

Most people individually will consider themselves "free enough", and not care about politics as long as the country is well managed. Nothing stops you from starting to research or trying to build self-driving cars in China [2]. China will continue to manage to hire western talent for its firms [3] until whatever skill gap still exists is filled.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_Credit_System

[2] https://www.cnbc.com/2017/09/01/goldman-says-china-has-talen...

[3] https://qz.com/1062035/half-of-the-top-10-employers-of-ai-ta...


I'm a China hawk, but this is what has been happening and what will continue happening unless something massively more drastic than blocking a single minority foreign app happens.

I think there's a tendency for people to overestimate the importance of foreign apps to Chinese consumers and to underestimate the Chinese market. It's almost laughable that people think blocking WhatsApp will make any difference to Chinese people.

eg., the Chinese tech/online market is so huge it can sustain multiple competitors of its own in each sector - ride-hailing, search, shopping, food delivery, maps, chat, mobile payments all have massive players providing their own competition and innovation.

Genuine ground-breaking technological innovation is rare. When it happens, it's not like China won't get it (eg. touchscreens) because it blocked Google. In a lot of ways, because Chinese consumers are so quick to adopt new technology, there's sometimes more low-level innovation/adaptation because companies can rely on new apps/tools getting traction quickly.


> I think there's a tendency for people to overestimate the importance of foreign apps to Chinese consumers

Then why take the trouble of blocking something so small and unimportant? ;)

> eg., the Chinese tech/online market is so huge it can sustain multiple competitors of its own in each sector

Doesn't China have bigger aspirations than just the mainland?

People are missing the bigger point. I'm not talking about the current state of things. This is about the future. Most things are derivatives of other things. It's much harder to create these derivatives without easy access to free flowing data. People are saying, "It's fine, Chinese students just study and work in the West and bring it back to China after a few years." This is extremely inefficient. 1. there's the monetary cost involved compared to a open internet connection2. only a very small portion of the population will have this opportunity compared to potentially millions more with an open internet connection. 3. the amount of time it will take for this data to come back to China is huge compared to the instantaneous sharing you get with an open internet connection

Getting more control isn't free, the price is growth.


1. These are foreign-owned infrastructure platforms and China is protective about its markets. Foreigners can't set up businesses of any kind, let alone infrastructure.

2. You seem to assume the bulk of innovation is going to be happening outside China and that blocking consumer access to Western platforms would somehow inhibit a flow of information to China. I'd disagree on both counts. The Chinese government is acting as the word's biggest VC and is also very practised and willing to take on long-term transformation plans at the national level. Shutting down foreign platforms only drives adoption of home-grown ones. In addition, they are explicitly targeting a future position as the world leader in AI. In the West I'd be betting on the MIC over individual privately owned companies to put any kind of dent in that ambition. I think any moment where Apple or Google alone could outspend and outcompete China in tech is gone.


This has little to do with China and innovation. The problem is mostly economical. China probably wants Chinese clones, clones that are incredibly valuable and based in China. All the wealth generated therefrom stays in China. That's it, it's likely an economical manipulation. And frankly, from an economical standpoint, well-played. (Hope I don't get downvoted to hell!)


Not far from mercantilism: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mercantilism


I don’t understand the lack of reciprocal tariffs introduced by the US or are there some I don’t know of?

This is probably the economic equivalent of banning say mobile phones or some other large and important sector.


I think a lot of people feel the same way and it somewhat feeds into the Trump phenomenon.

For years the thinking has been that China is liberalizing, and it will eventually open up and that reciprocal sanctions or tariffs will spark unnecessary protectionism and encourage China to reverse direction.

A lot of people now, after 20-30 years of similar behaviour, believe that China was just gaming the system all along and had no plans to liberalize politically or allow fair competition from foreign business. Trump certainly tapped into that (although I think there's some consensus that punitive tariffs still won't be useful).


I think it's a case of wage normalisation. The salary and cost of living differentials between the West and Asia are narrowing incredibly fast. That's going to cause a lot of dissent amongst Western populations, particularly as those downward wage pressures are creating the kind of insecurities and job competition that the wild east is long accustomed to. The real consequence of fluid global trade is a global normalisation of living standards - you could say the first world is finally sharing and taking a hit in return for smartphones and cheap clothing.


Punitive import tariffs don't work as punishment. They convert a portion of the consumer benefit from trade into taxes, a portion into domestic producer benefit from trade, and throw the rest away as deadweight loss. The foreign producer-exporter is barely even scratched. It's just an excuse to grab money from domestic consumers using another country as the scapegoat.


every tax ever conceived is ultimately always paid by the consumer, yes. The point of such a tariff is however to increase the price of the foreign product, essentially giving local competitors a price advantage.


Inaccurate. Taxes are usually shared between consumers and their trade partners, and the relative burden on each is determined largely by price elasticities in the supply and demand curves. Generally speaking, the more sensitive consumers are to changes in price, the more the tax burden is shifted to suppliers.

In the case of an import tariff, it is paid entirely by consumers, and domestic suppliers get a windfall from it, rather than sharing the burden. That's because there are two supply curves in play, domestic and international, and only one demand curve, because consumers generally don't care where the goods come from, and the internal trade of foreign markets is ignored.


This doesn't work so well when your entire manufacturing industry explicitly relies on chinese production. Everything from debt to infrastructure has some dependency rooted in China. This is the whole point. Increase reliance on china for just about everything and it makes the idea of counter tariffs next to impossible.


The clone theory was correct while China was a low wage economy. But it has ceased to be the case quite recently (obviously the future is not evenly distributed, particularly in such a diverse and rapidly expanding economy - so you will still see copying for years to come but this doesn't represent the strategic direction). As I've pointed out elsewhere, China in fact has no option but to compete via design and innovation, just as the US, Japan, and Korea have done during their economic developments. 'Made in Japan' for example used to be the signifier of a cheap shitty knockoff - that seems extraordinary to most millennials today.


As for sharing knowledge goes, China has sci-hub.io and westerners get to pay $35 a paper.


Why can't westerners use sci hub? Civil disobedience is much more tolerated in the west.


1. My question was rhetorical. It was in response to someone saying that apps outside of China are unimportant and small.

2. No single country has a monopoly on innovation. Consequently the sharing of ideas from different locations and cultures is really important for moving forward. You miss out on this benefit when you consciously work to block it. Historically, the last time China was this arrogant about isolation, it didn't turn out too well.

Last Update: I've wasted enough time on this and probably should have put this in my original post.

If you think of sharing data as a resource, China just made it artificially scarce, made it extremely slow, and made it really costly which makes total business sense in the Information Age /s Hopefully our governments won't follow


China's not blocking out the sharing of ideas though. Until a few months ago, Andrew Ng worked at Baidu!

They are isolating data, but hoarding data is a competitive advantage in a way that isolating knowledge isn't.


> China's not blocking out the sharing of ideas though. Until a few months ago, Andrew Ng worked at Baidu!

Ok they are bottlenecking data... As I've already mentioned this is an extremely inefficient way to share data. Sharing data using physically present word of mouth is a lot more expensive and slower than sharing it instantly via an open internet connection.


Is there any indication that scientists predominantly use whatsapp, so this would block innovation? When you say "this is an extremely inefficient way to share data", what do you mean? It's not like China doesn't have its own messengers, and it's not like whatsapp is the only way for people to communicate over the Internet..


You commonly hear scientists complain that they spend a lot of time trying VPNs and working around the latest crop of GFW restrictions, yes. Whatsapp isn't the only limited thing in China.


Peak Hacker News

"Sharing data using physically present word of mouth is a lot more expensive and slower than sharing it instantly via an open internet connection."


If stating obvious facts is "peak Hacker News" then that's good, isn't it?


as long as circumlocution is valued.


I've read that circumlocation is cheaper and faster.


Last I heard academics had started getting filtered internet connections too, and were finding it hard to collaborate with non-Chinese academics as a consequence.


Any effective government will rightly 'isolate' itself from this kind of pollution - http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/interrogatio...


> Foreigners can't set up businesses of any kind

Foreigners can set up businesses - see for example, the WFOE [0].

There are restrictions however for certain fields and business activities (infrastructure being one), so while foreigners can't just set up any company, they certainly can set up some companies if they like.

0: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wholly_Foreign-Owned_Enterpris...


Thanks that's very helpful actually as I may well be doing this in future. My experience was from being told by Chinese that it was JV all the way and with O'Reilly having to use 3rd parties but thinking about it publishing would obviously be sensitive...


Yes, publishing is strictly regulated, and I'd imagine you'd need a JV for any sort of traditional publishing.


This right here. China has twofold. Mass expansion to increase other countries' reliance on the Chinese (whether this is debt, infrastructure or manufacturing), in addition to closing off to foreign companies. Foreign companies can not be completely monitored like internal companies can be.


> It's much harder to create these derivatives without easy access to free flowing data.

The data is free flowing enough within China though - that's the bigger point ;)

It's not as if you turn off the access to Western information* and suddenly you've got a room full of Chinese developers and entrepreneurs awkwardly twiddling their thumbs - there's enough critical mass within Chinese markets to create the kind of 'daily innovation' without much input from outside.

Genuinely, massively disruptive innovation has always crossed over, and will continue to do so unless something drastically worse happens with censorship/politics.

*EDIT: plus blocking WhatsApp won't actually restrict meaningful foreign information crossing the borders - all it will do is make it difficult for dissidents to hide their online conversations, and piss off Chinese business people who need WhatsApp to converse with foreign clients.


> Genuinely, massively disruptive innovation has always crossed over, and will continue to do so unless something drastically worse happens with censorship/politics.

Some would argue that it doesn't even need to cross over because multiple discovery is an actual thing with plenty of historical precedence [0]

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_multiple_discoveries


Russia has had an unrestricted Internet access until recently. I still don't see booming tech sector (or actually, any) there or people revolting against authoritarian government. There's language and cultural barrier that must be taken into account -- free access to information won't do much if people still prefer their information and social bubbles and actively maintain them. Russians also have copy-cat versions of many western sites/services that are more popular than original ones, even though they can access these too.


What about Yandex and vk?


That's what I meant by writing: "Russians also have copy-cat versions of many western sites/services that are more popular than original ones". vk == Facebook, Yandex == Google.


C'mon. Yandex is older than Google. It's short-sighted and actually rather arrogant to see those platforms like "look at them, how cute, they're playing information society like the grown-ups!".


"look at them, how cute, they're playing information society like the grown-ups!"

Don't put words in my mouth, I've never said something like that. I just wanted to highlight the fact that most people still prefer local services, either due to language barrier or social/information bubbles to disprove the claim that China would somehow be magically different if there was no Great Firewall.


And by having that, they are better off than Europeans, who have nothing. Instead, they add their weight to the network effects of US services.


Of services that actually benefit from global outreach, like Facebook. Local companies (clones of Uber) do very well


> Then why take the trouble of blocking something so small and unimportant? ;)

China would rather be in control of tracking/surveillance internally, rather than let it be done by foreign companies and nations. Thats all


WhatsApp doesn't do surveillance, it's end to end encrypted. Foreign surveillance is not the reason they block these services and you know it.


WhatsApp knows your contacts and when are you talking with whom. Also their closed source app has access to most of your phone.


China wants their own surveillance. Regardless of what you think of Whatsapp's encryption or the US govs potential to break it.


I think you are right. I am a Chinese netizen, and I find popular trends in tech areas like new deep learning papers have lags to be posted in Chinese tech communities. People who don't know arxiv.org or can't read English well tend to get news and knowledge from WeChat official accounts. Just a few weeks ago, people get arrested for using Shadowsocks, they were ordered to delete the proxy software and make commitments about not using tools to bypass the great firewall. The gov is clearly getting more control, but when will they hit the price threshold? Will they stop when they know they are in a dilemma? Which side will they choose? That are questions we Chinese still can't answer.


>> I think there's a tendency for people to overestimate the importance of foreign apps to Chinese consumers

>Then why take the trouble of blocking something so small and unimportant? ;)

Because they don’t want local activists to be able to use it as a secure channel for communications. WhatsApp really is irrelevant to the market, but access to secure private communications is politically intolerable to the government.


Innovation is a lot harder if you've grown up with someone looking over your shoulder all the time. I think we're going to pay that price, and that China will be more affected. The times of real progress in human history are few, the stagnant centuries are plentiful. But we'll see. Snowden ain't coming home any time soon.


In FinTech in particular, China is years ahead [1]. WeChat Pay had 100m users in 2014.

[1] https://www.economist.com/news/finance-and-economics/2171739...


This claim gets made a lot, especially by China's government in it's "four great modern inventions" marketing campaign. [1]

I don't get it. None of those are Chinese inventions. They're all technologies China adopted really fast. It's a testament to market size, development speed and certain idiosyncrasies about Chinese demographics, etc. But it has nothing to do with invention or innovation.

[1] http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/bizchina/tech/2017-08/08/conten...


WeChat has almost 1 billion active user, operating any system to support customer base that big requires innovations and inventions at various levels. for example, WeChat group published quite a lot high quality papers regarding their backend systems, the latest one probably being the VLDB 2017 paper on their PaxosStore capable of handling billions of strong consistency queries a second. This puts WeChat at the same level of Facebook, twitter, etc regarding innovation/invention.


Remember that comment, because it applies even better to everything e.g. Apple or Uber, notoriously "innovative" companies, are doing.


Indeed. Remember the infamous comment by CmdTaco on slashdot when Apple released the iPod:

> No wireless. Less space than a Nomad. Lame.


What's worth more, inventing something or commercializing it? It sounds a bit like USA vs Israel. Israel invents a lot while the US commercializes on a bigger scale.

If the US isn't very good at developing new products because of burdensome regulations, small market size, slowness, demographics, etc. then maybe it's just not very good at technology. Other countries are bad at technology because of poor education, access to finance, skill of workers, culture, etc. They're still bad at technology, whatever the reason.


I think the point though is that it's only fair to compare companies when they compete head to head in similar markets.

It isn't that interesting to say China has a huge mobile payments market dominated by Chinese companies when that is almost entirely due to a lack of an existing CC infrastructure.

It is interesting when Chinese network companies (Huawei, TP-link, etc.) are able to out-compete US based companies in their home market.


> What's worth more, inventing something or commercializing it?

And hasn't been "successfully commercializing inventions, no matter who invented it" been a staple of the US economical success for decades, nay, over a century?


The argument is more along the lines that China gets it slower due to a combination of tech not being released and research and communication with foreign users being more difficult due to web censorship.

As one example, outside of tech areas that lacked strong traditional incumbents (fintech, e-commerce) or where strong cultural/linguistic context is needed (Chinese NLP), what areas are there where Chinese products enabled through blocking foreign ones are superior?

(e.g. I'd argue that Google's products for photos, email, maps/navigation, video conferencing, and translation -- all blocked in China -- exceed that of any competitor, Chinese or otherwise)


> I'd argue that Google's products for photos, email, maps/navigation, video conferencing, and translation -- all blocked in China -- exceed that of any competitor, Chinese or otherwise

I'd be interested to hear why you think so. As far as I know none of these are better than their Chinese counterparts in any meaningful way. (Competition isn't the right word as these are different markets.)

Baidu Translate is at least as good as Google Translate, certainly better for translating to and from Chinese.

Google Maps is not relevant at all in the Chinese market because they don't have the data. Setting that aside, I am not aware of any technical edge they have over Baidu.

Chinese people generally don't use email, but there are mail providers that are comparable to what Google has.


> VC

This was really striking to me how bad Chinese-based ones were (which got me thinking about this issue). The QQ client doesn't even seem to work when I attempt to visit the international one; WeChat lacks a webapp with VC, has no Linux desktop app and the Windows desktop app I used had rendering difficulties with the self pip screen -- far worse experience compared to Skype and Google Hangouts.

> Baidu translate

Are your referring to http://translate.baidu.com/? Unless I'm missing something, that doesn't even offer speech to text or text to speech, making it far less viable for conversation.

> Maps

Right, I'm comparing US to China here. As a simple example, of something Baidu maps seems to omit, it doesn't offer time estimates for travel at an arbitrary point in time. I can see historical traffic data, but can't seem to get routing/time to drive under that historical data. I'm not even sure how well Baidu reroutes based on current traffic data..

> Email

Even at work is this true?

I'll give you that I don't have great comparison on this one (hard to use random email providers).. and that Outlook is quite good.But the integration between gmail and other services is extremely powerful -- e.g. extracting appointments + flights from my email and auto-populating maps and sending reminders.


> VC

Consumers have an app in their pocket that has everyone they know in it and can make a video call with two taps.

For corporate video conferencing there are paid solutions just like everywhere else.

So a free desktop app like Skype for video conferencing has no appeal.

> Baidu

The Baidu translate app has all those features and even a mini app for conversations in a walkie-talkie-like mode.

> Maps

You can set a future time for routing by public transit, and the real-time routing is pretty good. It doesn't try to predict road traffic conditions in the future. If Google has that feature I'd be curious how useful it is.

> Email

Big companies that have email have email systems. There's no demand for widespread public free email accounts because the public has no interest in email unless it's the only option.

I think the issue here is that it's easy to look at the features you use like Hangouts or Gmail calendar integration and think that Google is "ahead" technically. But in the Chinese market, the same needs are met in different ways by different products on a different mix of devices. So the features that you look at as "missing" haven't been developed because the market just doesn't care about them, not because Chinese internet giants lack the technical chops. They don't.

I think the way to look at it is not who is ahead, but that these are different markets with different values and the products look quite different, but you can't easily compare them by checking off features.


I'm thinking more along the lines of quality as well as features.

> VC

And both Hangouts and Skype both have very good mobile apps - at least on par with Wechat. The fact that the desktop component is limited sucks -- it makes it painful for me to say practice Chinese with relatives I have in China. (a laptop or desktop screen is a far better form factor than a small mobile device).

I agree with you that desktop is the 5% case, but that 5% is still a loss.

> Baidu

I just compared the Android apps side to side.

Google Translate's UX is far beyond Baidu's. Baidu's conversation mode requires holding a specific language button while I talk and releasing it when done. With Google, I can just turn the system on and have a conversation in both languages - it auto-detects the language spoken and pauses.

Google's camera based translation is also real time unlike Baidu.

> Maps

Transit: Google Maps also has this ability - it's also a simpler problem to follow train schedules than understand and route under historical traffic data. The historical driving feature is quite useful for Google when you are trying to plan any sort of outing. (If we're meeting tomorrow.. I need to know how much time to buffer in my schedule!)

> Email

Email is probably not a good item to discuss because the general public (i.e. not technologists) in America that only recently got on the Internet also favor other mediums over email. I'm only thinking of the technologist crowd here, but I don't have context on the Chinese one to comment.


> VC

I think the desktop case is 5% in the US, but 0.5% in China. It is more of a "mobile first" environment, because they skipped a lot of early PC development that only happened in the US.

> translation

I have tried both the Google and Baidu camera translation apps on iOS. The Google real time one was completely useless for me. You have to hold the camera steady and try to read the translation, which is word-for-word and hilariously wrong as often as not, and constantly changing as the camera moves and it (mis)reads the characters in different ways. Furthermore the stretched and overlayed "translated" English text is difficult to read. It looks like a very nice tech demo, but it has no practical utility for me. In contrast with the Baidu app, you take a picture, select the text with your finger, wait a moment while it considers, and you get a nice textbox with the selectable, translated text, and the OCR'd original language above. It's a practical tool.

My point is not that one is better or worse. Really it is that you cannot consider the tool alone without looking at how it is used in the market it was designed for.

Really the idea that Chinese companies are behind or aren't innovative is ridiculous if you look at how well they are adapting and how quickly they are innovating in the market that exists here.


>Baidu Translate is at least as good as Google Translate

>Как мне пройти на улицу кораблестроителей?

Google:

>How do I get to the shipbuilders' street?

Baidu:

>how can i go to the street considered for that?

Fuck this crap, even yandex translate is much better.


It's better for Chinese, in my experience. Between Russian and English, perhaps not.


The k in the street name needs to be capital K.


>I think there's a tendency for people to overestimate the importance of foreign apps to Chinese consumers

Yes, because foreign companies compete on an asymmetric playing field.


Right, don't most people use WeeChat as the defacto method of payment there? To the point they're a little bit ahead of the game in terms of ability to make mobile payments.


Another alternative is that you may get a Galapagos island effect where Chinese firms do innovate, but their innovation is tied to the cultural and regulatory norms and not very applicable outside of China. The same effect was seen with Japanese cell phone companies pre-smartphone era.


If Chinese start an economic and cultural expansion which includes PRing their culture, movies, tech, products and building special relationships with developing world in Asia, Africa, south American and Europe they may end up being the globalization leader.


As someone who is sometimes forced to watch media from the mainland due to family, unless censorship is relaxed - this isn't going to happen.

Creativity is inhibited when you have the cost of wondering whether what you've written or what you'll say will land you in jail. This problem is multiplied 1000x if you work in anything related to media or art. Consequently mainland entertainment will always be safe and boring. It's not going to see success like say South Korean or Japanese media industries

It's super obvious that the state of the mainland China entertainment industry is so terrible when you have most Chinese pirating foreign media


No innovation in entertainment means culture safety means prolonged rule of the party.

You are just confirming their logic.


This is just silly. If the local entertainment isn't very good, then people will find something better that isn't controlled by the Chinese government or shaped the rest of the Chinese culture, which is how you get Western values along with Hollywood movies. And you also get a culture that ignores censorship laws, because they are stupid, which can lead to ignoring other laws that are stupid.

I'm not saying pirated Marvel movies are going to bring down the PRC, but there's no reason to think that bad Chinese movies that no one wants to watch will help the party, either.


That is going to be tough. A whole generation of Chinese see the west as cool and to be emulated. I have a hard time seeing a whole generation of Europeans and Americans wanting to emulate the Chinese, Japan, maybe. China, not so much.


As an European of almost 30, I used to feel America is cool, but I got pretty disillusioned over the last 10-15 years. I can tell the same about many people I know too.

US is no longer a country to be emulated. It's a country to fear (for what they can, and do, to other countries) and a country to pity (for what it does to its own citizens).

China, OTOH, looks more and more cool now. A lot of things that made them seem evil turned out to be exaggerations and propaganda, and while their politics still wouldn't make me feel safe starting a business there, they seem to be the only country on the planet that seems to think and execute long-term. It's something the West is no longer able to do.

Hell, the Chinese currently seem to be the only nation on the planet who seriously care about fixing the climate issues.

China has a great opportunity now to win plenty of foreign mind share. I wonder if they'll go for it, and if we start seeing more pro-Chinese propaganda.


You called China "the only country on the planet that seems to think and execute long-term". I agree with that. That gives them a huge advantage.

The issue about repression stifling creativity is orthogonal to that (unless to the extent repression might be necessary for long-term-ness), and gives them a huge disadvantage.

Which huge thing is huger is anyone's guess. They look to be winning so far. (What could really derail them is a bad leader, Mao-style. Checks and balances would be to avoid that. But that's a different topic altogether)


> A lot of things that made them seem evil turned out to be exaggerations and propaganda

Such as?


People living in fear. Strong and full censorship for political reasons (it turned out neither strong not being done for political reasons, but rather economical ones). Population control through forced abortions and murders everywhere (it turned out to be not true). Evil communist leaders. Shit-quality manufacturing (that's the fault of western companies; China manufactures to the specs you give and pay for, it's western companies that decide to cheap out on products). Those are all things I've been led to believe through media reports.

The point being, whatever happened there 40 or 60 years ago, currently China is not that much different from the US, and unlike the latter, it's only getting better.


>Shit-quality manufacturing (that's the fault of western companies; China manufactures to the specs you give and pay for, it's western companies that decide to cheap out on products)

Many times, US companies take Chinese products "off the shelf" and slap their brand on it, based on a spec that the Chinese company themselves came up with on their own. Most manufacturers have catalogs for you to browse, and many are quite reluctant to modify their designs with your own specifications, although this depends on the company. So I would disagree that it's western companies cutting corners. Typically the manufacturers cut cost to increase their own margins, regardless of what spec you give them.


> People living in fear.

In the former Eastblock people weren't living in fear either, as long as they did not think of sticking their heads up too far above the field in terms of political activism and such. If you did then you were pretty sure to be targeted.

China today is still very repressive when it comes to political freedom.

https://freedomhouse.org/report/freedom-world/2017/china

And as long as they are 'one party rule' I think that it is both strong and for political reasons. Keep in mind that all of politics is ultimately rooted in economy so it is pretty easy to get lost in the mix.

> Population control through forced abortions and murders everywhere (it turned out to be not true).

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/One-child_policy

It very much turned out to be true, and you can add a very large number of forced sterilizations to that list.

> Evil communist leaders.

That's an opinion, I'm not going to argue with opinions.

> Shit-quality manufacturing (that's the fault of western companies; China manufactures to the specs you give and pay for, it's western companies that decide to cheap out on products).

This is false. China can make quality products but there is also a culture of substitution where quality samples are replaced with lower grade manufacture at later points in a contract to deliver. This has bitten many Western companies that turned to China for their manufacturing and which has caused a lot of companies to bring their quality control to China, just before shipping to save on the amount of stuff shipped that simply did not work or did not work as advertised. This QA issue has been very well documented and can definitely not be laid at the door of the Western companies placing their orders in good faith.

> Those are all things I've been led to believe through media reports.

Media mostly reports, it mostly does not make stuff up. And most of those media reports are backed by at least my personal experience over the years where I will be more than happy to note that this stuff isn't a constant but that there are trends with some stuff improving and other things worsening. If you know your stuff it is very well possible to manufacture quality goods in China.

> The point being, whatever happened there 40 or 60 years ago, currently China is not that much different from the US

That is hilarious in so many ways. China is extremely different from the US along almost any axis that you care to name. Other than that of course the Chinese are people, just like Americans and Europeans but that's about it.

> and unlike the latter, it's only getting better.

This may very well be true, but then again, that's a function of where they were only a few decades ago. It's hard to remain at the top of something if there are other parties that wish to ascend, in dutch we have a proverb that reads 'standing still is going backwards' (I'm not sure how well that translates), but it fairly accurately sums up the sentiment.


> As an European of almost 30, I used to feel America is cool, but I got pretty disillusioned over the last 10-15 years.

You never thought the US was cool, but you watch their TV/movies, buy their clothes, use their tech, browse their websites for intellectual debate (hei HN) and use every other spare second to shit on the country and claim you hate it.

So pretty much like most Europeans. But the influence the US has on your life isn't going anywhere.


My 18 year old son has been looking at studying for a year abroad during his UK university course - the countries he is most interested in: Korea and Japan, he's least interested in the US.


> I have a hard time seeing a whole generation of Europeans and Americans wanting to emulate the Chinese, Japan, maybe. China, not so much.

That's more position of ignorance, and thankfully it is changing.

Even Eastern Europe had a problem with such an attitude. There used to be a saying: "Americans are not going to buy Skoda, Chinese will". And indeed, Chinese do.


Speaking as a young Western person, you are severely out of touch on this point.


Name 5 present day Chinese writers, pop stars and movie icons without referring to the web or using google. Then name 5 present day American writers, pop stars and movie icons.


And that's supposed to offend them? how?

What makes you think Chinese are after making others follow them? I think they are pretty happy with the way things are now.

Do you think that's what we are after? Making others emulate us? That sounds racist to me.


The poster he's responding to says that China can become a or the global cultural leader of the world.

And to achieve this specific status they do need others to follow them culturally. If no one outside of China is wearing Chinese clothes, watching Chinese movies, or listening to Chinese music, then they can't be considered a cultural globalization leader.


or, given the network effort of English as the global language of tourism, science, etc. the would need to create billions of new Chinese speakers. Give how different and difficult it is, I really don't see that happening.


The choice for China is to either be an insulated and isolated country with little exposure to the rest of the world, or to reach out and contribute in the conversation. I think we're already decades past the point where they can close themselves off, but if they want their own people to appreciate their culture, they have to be just as innovative as the rest of the world. Otherwise, people will stop listening and believing in what the party has to say.


Nobody is ever "pretty happy with the way things are" in the context of a country or company.

It is absolutely in China's best interest to promote their culture abroad, and they absolutely do spend tons of money doing it. Also, I'm not sure you know what racism is.


Especially if America keeps electing republicans.

As an European America is shitting on me a lot more than China is.


I believe the problem is actually that you keep soiling yourself.


This is so simple. I did not know.


An argument could be made that this is why their large investments in movies and entertainment has failed outside the homeland.


Although China has such a large market (and potential to close the market if need be) that not being able to expand outside of China won't be a problem for a long time.


But the effect was the complete opposite with Japanese car companies, which ended up being in massive competition with the US industry. (with ups and downs on both sides)


After the initial round of product launches, most Japanese car companies started designing unique products for the US market. Many of the most popular "Japanese" cars in the US were designed and assembled in the US, and aren't even available for purchase in Japan. There are a few exceptions like the Prius, but overall the "Galapagos Island effect" is a good metaphor. It's a very isolated and unique market.


It's speculative how much of the Japanese company design/assemble in the US is from trying to serve the market more closely, and how much is from trying to align with current or potential US trade restrictions. I think one might argue that there is a similarity of motivation in the US preserving auto industry capability in-nation with China wanting to develop tech capability in-nation. The motivation is similar, but the implementation is different.

I do agree there could be a "Galapogos Island" effect, I just don't know how to predict which industry will experience it vs the opposite. I wonder if someday the US will be the Galapagos in that relation though with the sheer size of China and it's possibility to trade with near neighbours India and Indonesia.


In terms of consumer preferences, the US and Chinese auto markets are actually pretty similar right now. Chinese buyers seem to want most of the same things as US buyers. Of course they're not exactly the same but more alike than Japan, Europe, Africa, or South America. Australia is also fairly similar to China and the US.

It's hard to predict the impact of potential trade restrictions and electrification requirements. The big multinational auto makers are pushing hard to harmonize rules around the globe, but populists and nationalists are pushing back.


I'd say it's more like the US market of 20 or 30 years ago. They sell lots of Buicks.


I was referring to general vehicle size and configuration preferences, not specific brands.


The best sellings cars are mostly mid-size sedans and minivans. That's the American market circa 1992 or so.


The same is true in the other direction: Japanese domestic auto sales heavily favor models that you can’t buy in the US. Toyota has Crown dealerships that boast about selling JDM-only models.


And leading in many other industries too, like robotics and video games.


> Especially as China avoids the mistake of closing itself off to the rest of the world, but stays integrated in the markets, as well as the academic exchanges.

So if the strategy is have-our-cake-and-eat-it-too why does the rest of the world play along? Corporate greed outside the control of governmental entities?

Like the parent and unlike the grandparent, I'm not convinced "openness" of the sort that fosters innovation requires liberal societal values. Openness in terms of not being legally restricted from copying and improving on existing products is the bigger one there, and China has this in spades. It's similar to the industrializing United States in the 19th century, which went from copying industrialized England to surpassing it - would less free political speech have stopped that?


> So if the strategy is have-our-cake-and-eat-it-too why does the rest of the world play along?

As opposed to what? Economic sanctions have a wonderfully consistent track record of making things worse for everyone. China is too powerful for 'destroy the country and slaughter its people in a fit of pique' to work the way it did in Libya and Syria, which is just as well because that also makes things worse for everyone. The one thing that consistently works well is to maintain a free society and demonstrate a better alternative by example. Okay, granted, we should be doing more of that.


Unique tit-for-tat regulations of Chinese companies of what is shown in practice?

"Our companies don't have freedoms X,Y,Z vs Chinese corps in china, so Chinese corps and investors will get the same special treatment in our country too".


On an ethical level, you're hurting people (e.g. Chinese workers) who had no part in the objectionable actions that prompted this. On a practical level, are there any cases in history where this has ever produced beneficial results?


But like you said, something more probably has to be done. Or else consider the case where the authoritarian model is perceived to have "won" and gets exported. That's also part of the ethical consideration.

Taking a measure such as gp's suggestion, which is at least fair and on face justifiable, may be the most just move.

And given the particularity of this case, history probably doesn't have a huge sample size. New contexts emerge, such as technological development. It's much more conceivable now than before that a small group of people could indefinitely hold power over the overwhelming majority.


China's is also hurting people with their behavior towards foreign companies in China in similar ways. Not to mention all the abuse china afflicts on it's own people with their power politics.

When someone is abusing you don't roll over, you create boundaries and walk away if they are violated.

And what is good about this practice is china has the power to stop this by treating everyone equally. Your not forcing things on china and you say you will stop when they stop.


> So if the strategy is have-our-cake-and-eat-it-too why does the rest of the world play along? Corporate greed outside the control of governmental entities?

Because having access to even a fraction of China's market is a huge boon to any company, as is having access to Chinese manufacturing. And playing along with China has made their society far more open and capitalistic, even if the ruling class occasionally attempts to assert their dominance.

China will progress at their own pace, but however they do it has to be homegrown. Simply overthrowing the ruling party like most westerners want would create chaos, the transition has to occur from within and at their own pace.


Which sounds like the "corporate profit maximizing controlled at higher-than-governmental levels" explanation.

I think the argument in recent coverage like this is that it's no longer "has made their society far more open" but "HAD made their society far more open." And then it really exposes the financially-opportunistic, rather than principal-guided-as-advertised, nature of how the West deals with different countries like Cuba vs Iran vs China vs etc.


Nothing the West does is principled, and the sooner people realise this the sooner they understand why the rest of the world reacts the way they do to the West.

From destabilising Libya and Syria, to taking in refugees, to grandstanding with Russia, nothing is done for any set of moral principles.

Libya and Syria were 2 nations that believed in Arab and African pan-nationalism, and tried to assert independence and secularism in the face of Western hegemony and Saudi-sponsored Wahhabism. Sure they were dictators and unsavoury, but they also weren't any worse than the many dictators the West has propped up and sponsored over the years.

For years many economists and business leaders decried the high salaries, strong unions and high cost of doing business in Germany, Scandinavia, France and elsewhere, so they imported a bunch of refugees under the guise of humanitarian principles, and as a result they've broken the power of unions, have unlimited cheap labour and are dismantling parts of the welfare state (look at what Macron just passed through in France).

And finally in Russia, NATO has them completely encircled, we overthrew several governments on their borders and replaced them with pro-Western ones (see "Colour Revolutions", or hell, just look at Mikheil Saakashvili's career path), and then we decry the fact that they finally took action for self-preservation (they had a perpetual lease of the naval base in Sevastopol which the pro-Western government wanted to end, despite the understanding with Ukraine at the dissolution of the USSR).

And of course there's the various covert CIA actions throughout the years which have been declassified, it'll be interesting to see in the next 40 years how current events are portrayed in the future.

Also, take a look at various developing countries, and actions by the World Bank and western NGOs. Contrast that with how China has courted those same countries. I've been to countries which were decimated and abandoned by the West, and where the only infrastructure projects even happening are funded by China. I know a few people from those countries which even went to study in Chinese universities, and whose futures are going to be linked with China. No one from that country has any illusion of the West being 'good', as they were a former colony abandoned by the West.


This is the kind of ideology over reality argument that gives academics such a bad name. You list all of these "bad" foreign policy actions without examining the context, the costs of doing nothing, or any of the "good" actions these countries have also done.

Take Libya, for example, the choice was to either do nothing, and let a dictator kill a bunch of his own people, in which case the US would have been condemned as "propping up" the guy, or help the rebels, in which case they get accused of "destabilizing the country."

If they send a bunch of people to help the rebels rebuild their country afterwards, they're now "nation building" and/or "colonizing". If they do nothing now they're ignoring the country they helped to "destabilize". If they sign a bunch of deals to bring in new goods or open new factories is "western capitalism" and "worker exploitation", but if they leave them alone, or only send aid workers then it's "paternalism" all over again.

Maybe the reality is that even the most powerful country in the world couldn't do anything to help the problems of a country with millions of people, but they still take the blame for whatever happens, even if they do nothing.

And Syria is basically this situation, plus a bunch of global powers doing their proxy war nonsense, plus a bunch of power hungry murderers using a religious ideology as a justification to do whatever they want, along with a murderous government that wants to hold power at any cost. No wonder Switzerland tries to stay out of this sort of business, other than bankrolling some of the people involved anyways.


>let a dictator kill a bunch of his own people

It turns out [1] that the claims of Libyan genocide were false. There were other choices than "do nothing" or "help the rebels". For example, a reasonable decision would have been to thoroughly, carefully and accurately investigate the genocide claims.

[1] http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2015/jan/29/hillary-clin...


>we overthrew several governments on their borders and replaced them with pro-Western

Dunno if you are trolling, but that's impossible. You can't just overthrow the government if people don't want it. And supporting the revolution is absolutely normal, even China does it in Myanma.


No, US NGOs, the CIA, and western governments had nothing to do with it... The Canadian government actually admitted to involvement in Maidan and providing support to "protestors".

Also, if they were wanted by a majority of the people, that's why pro-Russian governments were back in power soon after, right?

The Orange Revolution government barely lasted a couple years before imploding, and the Maidan government is going the same direction.

Even Mikheil Saakashvili can't work with Poroshenko, you'd think 2 CIA stooges would get along but apparently not.


>why pro-Russian governments were back in power soon after, right?

Like Yanukovytch, who offered eurointegration, and was thrown after breaking his promises?


He didn't break his promise, Merkel gave him the impossible scenario of having to break economic ties with Russia, which accounts for 30% of Ukraine's trade, in return for integration and no firm guarantees of any economic boost.

How's Poroshenko doing these days anyhow?


He's exaggerating for effect. Providing military, political and financial support to a coup is in the same general area.


An alternative to your alternative is the possibility that China is going to have to keep narrowing the area of permitted activity since the state has used this narrowing ie repression as a way to deal with existing structural problems without ending their root causes (problems ranging from credit imbalances to over-capacity in state-owned enterprises to growing inequality to corruption and beyond).

China two years ago or maybe China might permit enough market choice to allow basic innovation. But appetite of the repressive apparatus is not going to be sated and virtually all choices may wind-up being politicized. What happens when a well-connected individual asks you to invest-in/consult-for/etc their enterprise? What impact on your social credit might it have if you refuse?

It is fairly well established that secrecy and repression tends to breed corruption - when individuals have untouchable power, of course they'll want to leverage that for gain.


Illiberal regimes are assumed to be kleptocratic. Historically, it's rare to get a succession of just rulers when the temptation to take is there, and there isn't a strong balance of powers.

There have been just rulers for a while, but the risk of regression to the mean is ever present. We'll see how things go.


Conversely, there are plenty of democratic liberal regimes that turn up to be kleptocratic - just look at Brazil as one recent example.

It's also not clear whether kleptocracy can't be implemented in a way such that it's not a significant detriment to development. Singapore is arguably a kleptocracy, but it's a surprisingly well-managed one.


There's long been a hope that integration into the wider economy prevents war - the idea being that countries that trade deeply won't fight each other. The same logic seems to support the idea that trade can also act as a brake on kleptocracy - since stealing would mean harming foreign investment, damaging the goose that lays the golden eggs.

But I think it's mostly a matter of time and happiness of the population. When things are good, the apple cart stays upright. If they turn grim, everything gets a lot more unstable and the extremes come out. Depending on where it goes, it can get into a feedback cycle - I think this happened in Venezuela.


> There's long been a hope that integration into the wider economy prevents war - the idea being that countries that trade deeply won't fight each other.

There was a guy by the name of Norman Angell, who wrote a book called "The Great Illusion" about that exact thing. The premise, to quote Wikipedia, was that "the economic cost of war was so great that no one could possibly hope to gain by starting a war the consequences of which would be so disastrous", on the basis of considerable economic interdependence of major powers.

The book was published in 1909.


This analysis is spot on and sounds more like from someone who has actually been in China. I'd add that China has no choice but to compete through design and innovation as it is ending it's phase as a low wage economy and has a growing middle class to support (the 'copy machine' idea is complete nonsense recycled by lazy journalists who don't have a clue).


I think this alternative is more reasonable. Those who think China is just a copying machine, underestimate the influence the Chinese engineers had in the landscape of many industries. The hoverboards (the type with wheels) became a household product thanks to them.

Conceptualization is not making something actually happen, unlike what the patent-trolls want us to believe. IoT was first proposed in the 90s, but did it gain any traction before cheap Chinese prototyping components? This bares the question, is it the West that has made IoT or the East?


I think it's funny that you chose hover boards. I haven't seen one in use in any major US city I've visited this year. I'm sure some people still use them, but thanks to terrible Chinese engineering that caused fires and failures, I don't know anyone that's bought one after the first couple of months that they were a fad.


Apart from the product failure, I think we have all heard the stories of people having those as christmas gifts and ending up in ER for injuries on the same day.

That could have been overshadowed if they could satisfy a niche. They are neither useful for going to work nor Indy Grabbing. Let's just hope next time the trend turns toward something like that it solves a problem.


Chinese engineers didn't make the hoverboard. If anything the hoverboard example disproves your example as they just copied the hoverboard from foreign companies.

I know what you're point seems to be even though you aren't communicating it very well. I do think you're missing the fact that producing goods cheaply does not make you a leader in tech. Besides quick fads like hoverboards or fidget spinners China does not have much traction with actually producing and selling products. Things might be made in China but they are designed by foreign companies and the vast majority of the profit leaves the country.


I doubt anybody will ever see this response, but about the Hoverboard, here it is:

Hoverboards are originally from China [1] however, most of us have likely learned about them from Kickstarter etc. I think the users of HN would agree that "invention is never a sudden thing". The process for hoverboards has been iterative, of course. I have heard claims of having commercial hoverboards as much as five years before they became household names in the US.

[1] https://youtu.be/SGJ5cZnoodY?t=33m52s


Hover boards are a poor knockoff of a segway. There was even a stickless version hacked up by someone in the US a few weeks after the Segway's release. This dates back to patents filed in 1994.


Actually the video confirms that the hoverboard was created by a Chinese American, living in Seattle, who also patented it. The Chinese versions even look identical to the patent filing.


Have you heard about a certain drone manufacturer, DJI?


I'm certainly not saying that there aren't actual Chinese products that are selling. It's just not the norm. DJI is a great company but not indicative of the general ecosystem of China.


There are a lot of Chinese companies that are doing amazing things that many of us in the West have not heard of. Have you heard of Broad?


You are right that today DJI is exceptional and represents the cutting edge - but that in itself is indicative of what is normal in the future.


China’s strategy, despite all our western arrogance, is paying off.

It’s of course not nice to read such things, but who cares in the end. If you go to China, you’ll use Something else.


China will reach some predetermined level of technology that The Party decides they are comfortable with, then close their borders and just get on with being the Middle Kingdom in splendid isolation. That is my prediction. I don't think they feel the need to project power and remake the world the way the US and previously the UK do/did. Maybe they will disengage from the world and look spacewards.


> I don't think they feel the need to project power and remake the world the way the US and previously the UK do/did

they already do. China wields strong economic influence and pressure over her southeast asian partners, some of whom need to be convinced to give up significant portions of maritime control and territorial rights in an effort to redraw the american sphere of influence in the south china sea region, and further out to establish a new economic status quo in africa and S. Am, where the traditional western world's influence is more political than economic.


Not entirely implausible. That's in a sense what they did after they sent out Admiral Zheng He with a fleet of ships and thousands of men in the early 15th centuryas far as East Africa - they concluded "meh, nothing interesting there", and shut down the whole program.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zheng_He


The funding for Zheng He's voyages was pulled because Ming China needed the resources to defend against renewed attacks from the north, i.e. Mongolia and Siberia. Because Britain is an easily defended island and the Iberian peninsula has the Pyrenee mountains acting as a defensive wall, England and Spain didn't have this type of problem when they sent out their fleets.


What about the Dutch?


China invests heavily into Africa and the whole continent will be under its sphere of influence, with all its growing-out-of-poverty economies. They're hardly the isolationists you imagine.


China 'invests' in Africa where other nations don't because the Chinese government needs to get rid of wealth to prevent its own people catching up with western living standards too quickly. Once living standards are caught up, "things are getting better" is no longer a good justification for tolerating the abuses and corruption.

In 1984 Big Brother did this same thing by having perpetual war, and Chinese military spending is in fact stupendously huge, but even so they aren't actually in a war so need other ways to burn large quantities of capital. Building unprofitable railways in the middle of Africa is a great way to keep their own people poor whilst claiming some sort of moral high ground. But if these were good investments, it wouldn't be up to the PRC to make them.


That seems like a recipe for long-term disaster, looking at how Japan fared with its technological isolation. It's not like the rest of the world is going to stop.


I don't think there is a point where China will 'disengage', rather China will continue to do what it is doing now: monitor closely and throttle accordingly.


This really is a great point. Not everyone wants to dominate mankind.


We do? What kind of racist thing is that?


Seems like you can either...

A) Reach a predetermined level of technology you are comfortable with |OR| B) Look spacewards.

Very hard to do both of those.


I mean reach a level at which you decide you don't need the rest of the world, that you're now self-sufficient. They can then take technology in the direction that suits The Party without external influence.


Not an alternative at all. It's what's happening and it's no good. The benefactors are the Chinese me-too tech industry and the government. The ultimate loser is the Chinese consumer.

If China banned coca-cola and bragged about its burgeoning soft-drink industry we'd all be laughing at it.


The argument that capitlaism works just fine in illiberal context has way more evidence against it then for it. China so far is actually an huge exeption, almost unique.

I agree however that China can take a light enough approch and that's why I continue to think China growth will go on.


Unfortunately, this is probably the much more likely scenario, since Chinese tech products have long since reached the point where they're widely considered good enough (or in some cases, much better) compared to western alternatives for a large majority of Chinese citizens.

The possibility that eventually Chinese internet products could by their own merit compete in the global market, outcompeting western alternatives in some cases, is the even more terrifying aspect to me, however. I wrote a lengthy post about it not too long ago, and don't have anything useful to add to it yet, so please excuse the copy-paste:

To authoritarian governments all over the world, the censorship and surveillance frameworks built into many Chinese internet services like WeChat are actually extremely valuable features, rather than something they'd want to opt out of.

These features have been battle-tested in the largest and most ruthlessly robust surveillance state the world has ever seen, and have time and again proven their effectiveness in influencing public opinion and quelling dissent.

If an app like WeChat were to ever gain foothold in a nation with an authoritarian government, all they'd have to do is strike a deal with TenCent, and with the flip of a switch, that government can then enjoy unprecedented control and visibility into the "private" communications of its populace. All the friction involved in the decidedly difficult and costly exercise of building your own large-scale surveillance/censorship infrastructure will suddenly have been removed. The one thing Chinese internet services can offer that no western counterpart can reasonably compete with also makes them by far China's most dangerous export: authoritarianism as a service.

To those of us in democratic nations, we must also remember that authoritarianism usually doesn't manifest itself as a cliff, but rather as a gradual, slippery downward slope. Every government in the past has displayed authoritarian tendencies in their history, to varying degrees, and governments in the future will inevitably continue to do so. The natural tendency of government is to slide down the slope of authoritarianism, because government is power, and power corrupts. It takes diligence and continued effort on the part of the governing body and its citizenship to counteract this natural descent.

All it would take is another 911 type terrorist attack to sway public opinion enough to the point where enacting some kind of dragnet surveillance system in the name of national security would become politically feasible, in any democratic nation in the world. At that point, the horrible user experience and PR nightmare in having to rebalance the national budget or raise taxes to make room for improving your domestic spying infrastructure could be the only thing standing between us and an irreversible descent into authoritarianism. And if a significant portion of a democratic populace happens to be using WeChat at that point, well, let's just say I don't have a lot of faith that my own government could resist the temptation and take a principled stand against such a frictionless way to expand its own powers.

As Chinese offerings mature and become polished and innovative enough to compete with western counterparts in markets outside of China, we could easily start to see users around the world voluntarily start switching to them. That could very well mark the beginning of the end of this golden age of democracy as we know it.

I highly recommend taking a look at Nathan Freitas's excellent talk "The Great Firewall Inverts": https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KEJGqNf2rgk. In it, he explores how China's so-called Great Firewall is actually a bit of a misnomer because it's most crucial functionality is its ability to control the flow of information inside its own borders as opposed of keeping information out, how this ability is readily available to be exported to countries around the world in the form of internet services like WeChat, and what we can do about it (which is unfortunately, not a lot, other than to educate others on the very non-obvious non-immediate consequences of using these services, and to be vigilant about the spread of authoritarianism in our own governments).


Completely second this. And on a side note, WeChat is a lot more innovative than WhatsApp!


Another factor is that Chinese data privacy is much more lax and platforms like WeChat that span so much of consumers' lives have unparalleled access to data which will prove to be major differentiation in the long term.


> only blocks a few select companies that have products that are, at their core, easy to replicate

with low value for the Chinese economy.


100% this. And occasionally these apps out innervate their western counterparts. WeChat is better than WhatsApp, Facebook.


WeChat became one of the main mobile consumer platforms in China. It seems weird/different than elsewhere, because it's a chat app. It's basically just a different UX for the homescreen.

Comparing WeChat to WhatsApp on feature count is big time apples to oranges.


How is it better than whatsapp?


Not going to go into detail as I'm sure you know how to use Google.

Wechat isn't simply chat. It has grown into a platform that has empowered it's users to partake in a growing ecommerce industry. It also has p2p payments which is hugely popular.


If there were only 1 channel on TV, that channel would be very popular!

If Google or Facebook were given a monopoly on chat by the US government, and hardly anyone had credit cards, then their wallets would be universally popular too.

WeChat isn't going to get much market penetration outside of China because it's just not very good. At least that's my opinion, as someone who's forced it use it in China.


WeChat also has a shit privacy and security record. In the western world there are also plenty of payment alternatives to using a chat program.


Thank you, this is perfect.


But you are also blocking innovators.

> optimize for political obedience

And put innovation in a grave. Without a gravestone.


Yes. This one.


I think censorship is only part of the reason. Protectionism and national security probably plays a role aswell. Look at the list of websites they block:

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Websites_blocked_in_mainland...

Google, facebook, instagram, twitter etc. Those are one-way streets that provide next to no jobs, little tech transfer and no tax revenue to the countries they do business in, but tend to outcompete the local rivals if left to it, and are proven to provide a convenient surveillance platform for American intelligence.

It's surprising that any country would allow that to continue unchecked. The Chinese solution is certainly not great but I doubt the US would allow Chinese companies to keep a daily log on the activities of most US citizens and businesses. Or to replace entire industries like advertising without providing jobs or taxes in return.


"It's surprising that any country would allow that to continue unchecked."

Hold on now - Google still provides immense value.

And what does it cost?

Nothing.

The 'consumer surplus' value of G and FB are quite immense.

Google captures a tiny fraction of the value they create via ads.

What would Canada do without Google?

There is no Google here.

If we started with with 'government backing' it would be a s-show.

I understand about the issue from taxation perspective etc. - but let's not throw the baby out with the bathwater.

Google has a high degree of utility and FB does as well for many individuals.

Some jiggering with tax and investment laws might help, but on the whole, this is a 'good thing'.

Twitter. Well ... America can keep that :):):)


> Google still provides immense value.

Absolutely. But so does Baidu. And while doing so, Baidu provides jobs and tax revenue in China with little national security risk for China. And at the same time Baidu creates thousands of extremely skilled Chinese software engineers.


Frankly I agree, and would not shed a year if Google and FB were banned in other regions, allowing local competitors to develop. I don't buy this idea that the silicon valley hegemony is an unequivocally good thing.


A Chinese Gov/Mil alternative would be unequivocally better?


I don't know that the United States has any legal mechanism to prevent an online Chinese company from holding the top position and doing what American-native companies do with the data. At least I can't think of any such mechanism? Perhaps someone here is a legal scholar?


If the last years have show us anything it is that the USA government (and others) can create the legality that they think more convenient.

For instance, you can invent a new category in order to avoid detaining people like criminals or war enemies if none of the laws applying to those are convenient.


True, and I wouldn't put it past them, but I know of no current legal mechanism for that. Emphasis on legal, of course.

It does make me wonder what they'd use for justification - prior to the current administration. The current administration would just use nationalism and protectionism, I'd think. I'm not sure how the previous administration would have framed it in order to make it politically feasible.


The federal government can forbid any of its employees from using the said service out of security concerns, a la Kaspersky. With network effect this can be an insurmountable challenge. Why should anyone try?


For the thought exercise, I suppose. With the already entrenched services, it seems unlikely to change to whole new services. At least not any time soon.

There were services that came before, but they lacked the inertia the current incumbents have. The userbase of Facebook, Google, etc. is huge in the Western world. Even if another company came along and built a great service, I doubt it would see mass adoption due to the massive numbers involved with the current providers.


They can still watch youtube videos about molecular biology all they want. The numbers don't really matter in that regard. And why would Google care if whatsapp is banned? Facebook didn't care that google search was banned.

Banning Facebook would actually give a boost to their productivity, not much to lose there.


If a hostile foreign company starts getting significant market share, you can be sure that the local companies will be seen to cry out for regulation and the government will oblige


Yes, I'm expecting Europe to start waking up to this


It gives rise to possible corruption, like local corporate influences to block international competition.


> The people who will get ahead in China in the future are the ones who are somehow able to live outside of China to experience new ideas.

So in other words, the ruling class continues to rule, as they will be the only ones with the sanctioned political freedoms to study abroad, etc.

> China's fate as being relegated to being the world's giant copy machine is sealed unless things revert

China being the world's giant copy machine has worked very well for those in power in China. Why not sustain that as long as possible? What other country has the stability and resources to replicate that? Most countries with extremely cheap labor don't have the supply chain.


China might build their own products and I can see them building WhatsApp alternatives, but I won't install Chinese alternatives to WhatsApp on my phone, which means the Chinese won't be able to talk with me, an European, all the while I'm communicating without issues with acquaintances from all over Europe and the U.S.

This means that the Chinese are living in a bubble. This isn't news of course.

But the other issue is that they can't attract much foreign talent to relocate there, like Europe and the U.S. have historically done. Because they don't have a culture friendly to immigrants, but also because their environment is toxic for those of us that are accustomed to liberal democracies.

And their "copy machines" are actually racing against the clock, as more and more factories get fully automated and thus relocated home, not to mention their rising middle class, thus their cheap labor advantage will eventually go away. So when multinational companies will no longer assemble their products in China, what will they copy?

Of course, their middle class are now sending their children to western schools and many of them will probably go back to China, but on the other hand the best and brightest end up having the choice to stay in the west and many of them will.


> And their "copy machines" are actually racing against the clock, as more and more factories get fully automated and thus relocated home, not to mention their rising middle class, thus their cheap labor advantage will eventually go away. So when multinational companies will no longer assemble their products in China, what will they copy?

There's more to this than just being a provider of manufacturing services for overseas consumer goods companies wishing to outsource production. China has pursued a policy of forcing Western heavy-industry companies (infrastructure, aerospace, etc.) wishing to do business in China to form joint ventures with domestic Chinese companies which then serve as a means of transferring expertise to the Chinese companies. The Western companies go along with this because it's preferable to being shut out of the Chinese market altogether.

For example, Chinese high speed trains were initially based on imported designs (both the Shinkansen and European trains) built by joint ventures between the original makers and Chinese companies. But today China is domestically producing high speed trains using technology copied from those original ones.


So you believe China can fully exist as a bubble, selling to China, recruiting only Chinese?


Your views on things are pretty static, China has ups and downs in the river of history, it also had tech flourishing time like in Song dynasty. I guess 40 years ago you would never have a chance to see what China could be now. By the way, Shinhansen also imported a great deal tech from Germany, but what's big deal of it? Why can't China just learn from other countries and build a better and more accessible one? Just like Japan or America did? China now has fully advanced high-speed trains and pushing it to dozens of markets. Including The U.S. You were talking about the policies, those big companies came and made their money without paying taxes, not to mention successfully transferred a lot of polluted industries to China. they got what they deserve. Don't whine about that.


I don't think it'll be a contradiction for China to create a special city with more liberal values to attract liberal talent, or if China permits liberalism in a controlled context. Tech talent such as Andrew Ng already go to work in China knowing the political context surrounding China. I'm sure some HN people go to work in Dubai, which I'm sure has some contradictions to western cultural values.

I'm also not sure if the perceived ingredients for collective creativity are all that obvious or as critical as you seem to say. Perhaps competition is the most important ingredient, as opposed to freedom of political speech. And perhaps a well-educated aristocracy can nurture technological competition without also being afraid of it.


I would argue that this has been happening for a long time.

Example - China's Special Economic Zone program. Districts which have lowered administrative and regulatory barriers, specifically designed to attract foreign capital. Shenzen's SEZ has existed since the 1980's.

And that's not to speak of the numerous foreign enclaves that have existed throughout the years, from Hong Kong , the International Settlement and later the French Concession in Shanghai, and the numerous foreign districts that have popped up more spontanously (e.g. Jing'an, Shanghai)


> I don't think it'll be a contradiction for China to create a special city with more liberal values to attract liberal talent, or if China permits liberalism in a controlled context.

Hong Kong has been the test laboratory for what the Communist Party calls “One country, two systems”. It doesn’t seem like the regime is very happy with the experiment, or would be looking to expand it.


Really, I think they are expanding in that area, just not pushing for deregulation just yet: https://www.theguardian.com/cities/2016/may/10/china-pearl-r...


> their middle class are now sending their children to western schools and many of them will probably go back to China

I disagree with the "middle class" being the ones sending their children internationally. The Gini coefficient in China is higher than that of the United States. Even if it was the same income distribution, America's middle class cannot afford to send their children to private schooling in other countries.

These people are not the middle class -- they are quite far away in income away from the median of the income distribution, even in urban areas. They are the upper class. Maybe the lower upper class, but it's a stretch to say they are middle class.


"Middle class", "upper class", etc. are not defined by percentiles. Otherwise it would mean nothing when we say a particular country has a "growing middle class".


At any rate, GP is right that it's not the "growing middle class" in China that sends kids to private school in the US. It's the upper class.

Make it about half a million Chinese students in the US currently, so we're talking about the top 1%.


If they were defined by percentiles (i.e. certain definitions of middle class dictate the middle 60% of the population by income), you could still describe a "growing middle class" as a middle class acquiring a greater percentage of total income. While the population of the middle class isn't growing, its buying power still could be.


Well sure, but that's not what anyone means by those words.


Easy way to measure the middle class with your own eyes - count the number of Uniqlo stores (or Starbucks type places) and watch how fast the products are moving in them. In major Chinese cities that has rapidly accelerated over the last few years and they are now on a par with (or even ahead of) any major Western city.


>> But the other issue is that they can't attract much foreign talent to relocate there, like Europe and the U.S. have historically done. Because they don't have a culture friendly to immigrants, but also because their environment is toxic for those of us that are accustomed to liberal democracies.

This is becoming more and more untrue by the day.

While Europe and US did historically attract foreign talent, the good times were bound to come to an end once the immigrants started conspicuously thriving at the same time automation killed a lot of once well paying jobs for the locals. Ergo, Trump and the Trump-wannabes across Europe.

The notion of a "culture which is friendly to immigrants" is on a fairly quick downward trend and I would like to place bets with anyone here on this: the number of people immigrating into Europe and US will be drastically lower in about 5 years time.

The environment in liberal democracies are no less toxic today. A good example is a famous cartoonist whose once-intelligent writing on his website has turned into nutjob click-bait after he started fantasizing about his king-maker abilities. Either he holds opinions which are far from the majority, in which case you need to explain Trump's election. Or it coincides with the majority, in which case calling the outsiders' philosophy toxic is an example of someone in a glass house throwing stones at others.


> This is becoming more and more untrue by the day.

I see no evidence of this. Your evidence is "Chinese isn't so bad" and "what about Trump and anti-refugee trends in Europe?"

Those are social trends, which still exist at the margins of society (more so with Trump, but he still remains a minority figure).

Business, culture, freedom, lack of corruption. Until China matches the west in these points, they will never be a true destination for the world's best and brightest.


They already have an alternative it's called WeChat. Maybe other people should install that instead?


It's way more powerful than WhatsApp, too (location based chats, payments, etc.). And, of course, it's not E2E encrypted; just the opposite, you can assume that it's being wiretapped/monitored.

Thus, please don't install it.



Every service should make such an acknowledgement.


> you can assume that it's being wiretapped/monitored.

This can be assumed with any technology stack that is popular, domestically-grown, and well-established in China.

I have WeChat installed. Would I use it to converse with people outside of China? No. But casually, it's what's accepted there, what people ask you for, and what everyone's using.


Sure, I might use it myself if I'd return to China, but I'd hate for it to become the default chat app outside China - that's what I meant with "please don't install it"...

> This can be assumed with any technology stack that is popular, domestically-grown, and well-established in China.

Agreed.


I just wondering, for normal people, what kind of information you concerned to not be monitored, seriously? I knew most western take the privacy higher than anything. But for most normal people living outside of US, they really don't care. You would say they are dumb, but they care more about food, entertainment than the privacy, and liberal. To be honesty, nobody in China cared WhatsApp be blocked or not. As maybe 99.9999% Chinese even don't know there is an App called WhatsApp.


> I just wondering, for normal people, what kind of information you concerned to not be monitored, seriously?

What are normal people in your books? People who don't care what happens to non-violent political dissidents because they themselves are well aligned with their owners? That's not normal, you have to break a human child to get those results.

A child raised by illiterates and being only among them might never care about reading nor writing. So? Does that raise the value of illiteracy in my eyes? Not at all, not one bit. They're still missing out in ways I can't even explain to them.

> A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.

-- Robert A. Heinlein

Not to speak for Heinlein's fictional character, but I'd add to the list things like "decide what is right and wrong, what is good and bad". Some people think the group they belong to give them value, I think individual human beings make up groups and give them value. If most people don't care about things I find important for reasons I can articulate, that's just more people to have a discussion with. But just the fact that they are many is about as important as if someone saying something is skinny or obese. I don't multiply the value of an opinion by someone's body weight or how much money they have, and likewise I don't multiply it by how many people have an opinion.


> I just wondering, for normal people, what kind of information you concerned to not be monitored, seriously?

Political dissent, for example?


Then why block it?


Because it's not under control, which against Chinese government's philosophy.


Philosophy comes from "love of wisdom". Totalitarianism, a much better word to use here, comes from abuse and the dysfunctions that grow on it like mushrooms. I'd say the main difference between Asia and the West is that the West is sweeping the insights about totalitarianism deep thinkers had under the rug because actually, we'd love ourselves some smiling fascism; while in Asia they weren't even had. But philosophy can only even start where there is freedom of thought, and fearless people to use it. You can call anything a philosophy or a culture, it's become kind of a filler word, like "situation". Why not just say "it's against control, which is not appropriate in that situation". It's all just saying nothing and handing off the decision to others.


>And, of course, it's not E2E encrypted; just the opposite, you can assume that it's being wiretapped/monitored.

Whatsapp is not? Are you sure? I would assume NSA doing all it wants as well.

Whatsapp is out not because it can't let authorities audit it, but because of other economic reasons.


> Whatsapp is not? Are you sure?

Well, it's E2E encrypted, that's for sure. The NSA, like the Mossad, can do pretty much anything if you're a high-value target, I'd assume, but personally, I don't think there is blanket mass surveillance of WhatsApp chats, no.

> Whatsapp is out not because it can't let authorities audit it, but because of other economic reasons.

Do you have any evidence or even arguments for that assertion?


WeChat employs people in China.


But WeChat is dominant in China already. Nobody gives a rat's ass about WhatsApp in China (except a few people communicating across borders), as far as I can tell. The market share/penetration of WeChat won't appreciably rise due to this act.

It's not driven by economics.


Yes it is.


So far they had little success convincing the rest of the world using the tech that only a Communist mother would love.


Because other services already rooted in other areas. Japan got Line, South Korea got Kabaotalk.


> I can see them building WhatsApp alternatives

And maybe later they might even build alternatives to Google, Twitter, and eBay!

/sarcasm - please check out WeChat, Baidu, Sina Weibo, Alibaba


There is WeChat, and it is far more successful than WhatsApp.


With WhatsApp having over 1 Billion daily active users [1], I find that really hard to believe, but assuming that all of China's population is on WeChat ...

My point is that WeChat does not exist for me and probably never will.

[1] https://blog.whatsapp.com/10000631/Connecting-One-Billion-Us...


The last bothers me. It sounds like you invalidate his/her comment because you don't use it. WeChat is definitely more Chinese-speaking population dominant, but not necessarily just users in China. This is a massive network.


No, I'm using me as an example, the point being that the Chinese market is a bubble at least when speaking of Internet services.

What this means, for one, is that there is no cooperation or interoperability and these policies of the Chinese government are to blame.

From the sources available online WeChat's userbase is 90% Chinese. [1] So it might be a massive userbase, but it's not diverse.

Ask yourself this: would WeChat be successful if it weren't for the Chinese government favoring it, even going so far as to ban alternatives or worse?

Maybe, but maybe not, we'll never know, but products like WeChat are definitely not the result of free market competition in an international context.

If you know my phone number, you can contact me on WhatsApp. But you can't contact me on WeChat, because I'm not using WeChat, because I'm not living in China to be forced to use it and so the opportunity for a Chinese to contact me isn't there and I'm not going to install WeChat just because I might get contacted by a Chinese (there's always email).

Of course, in the future I myself would likely be interested in doing business in China, so I might end up wanting to talk with WeChat users.

But seeing such developments by the Chinese government is to me a strong signal that China is not a good place to do business. It might be for huge companies like Apple which have infinite resources, but as a small guy I couldn't bring myself at the moment to phantom developing a product, or delivering services to the Chinese market given that it's definitely not a free market.

So no matter how you look at it, the Chinese government has been maintaining an information bubble, keeping such products as WeChat tied to the Chinese market.

[1] http://www.businessinsider.com/wechat-breaks-700-million-mon...


If DAU is your only metric, sure. WeChat has a horizontal breadth that Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp have been trying to copy though. The equivalent of ApplePay, Venmo, basic online shopping, etc are all in WeChat.

https://a16z.com/2015/08/06/wechat-china-mobile-first/


China is still very poor. The Chinese rural households have a per capita income of only 9,892 yuan – about $4 dollars a day. and there's 680 million of these rural households still.

Chinese urban households have only a per capita income of 29,831 yuan – an abysmal $4,500 a year.

https://geopoliticalfutures.com/china-is-still-really-poor/

And we see the effects of poverty on education: "Surveys by Rozelle's team have found that more than half of eighth graders in poor rural areas in China have IQs below 90, leaving them struggling to keep up with the fast-paced official curriculum"

http://www.sciencemag.org/news/2017/09/one-three-chinese-chi...


> And we see the effects of poverty on education: "Surveys by Rozelle's team have found that more than half of eighth graders in poor rural areas in China have IQs below 90, leaving them struggling to keep up with the fast-paced official curriculum"

Just remember that we do not measure in the US IQ these days because the results would be very painful to look at for the poor of the US.


I am not worried about the poverty, I am more worried about the whole estate boom and it is on the edge of collapsing. Actually, there are ghost cities in China...those who got rich because they sold lands. They weren't rich because of their skills. This is a big problem to create a more balanced social classes based on income. A healthy economy cannot rely on just one or two specializationa (this is so evidence in Hong Kong, where nearly the captials were built on banking, investment and real estate; there is very little room for anything else to emerge). China has the same problem: major cities is populated with the professionals. In America at least every state has something to offer...


The things you mention are easily turned around (I certainly don't support the CCP, however).

Maybe the Chinese are very efficient with their money (try living on $4 a day in the US; or what does $4 mean in China?), or don't need as much money due to... a socialist system and/or, if you prefer, Hong Kong Post. Maybe they've started to realize the dream of Star Trek's "economy". ;)

"Consider the aggregate IQs of rural and urban/suburban whites [in the US]. During the 1970s according to Wordsum-IQ data, the intelligence gap between whites raised on farms and those who grew up in an urban/suburban background was enormous, almost exactly equal to the white/black gap. The data would indicate that a non-trivial slice of the white farmboys of the 1970s suffered from clinical mental retardation".


Whatapp employed 55 employees when it was sold for 19 billion.

Banning whatsapp to get local competitor which employs local talent, is actually better for China from poverty point of view, isn't it?


Because they are poor, they do not have the right access to the resources both nutrition and education. Eliminating poverty is at the top priority of the gov't plans. It's said to totally finish the plan in 2020.


> China being the world's giant copy machine has worked very well for those in power in China.

Yes, but that's not OPs point, I think. What I think OP means is that the west doesn't have to worry (much) about China becoming the world's main innovation spot, because with censorship, the best they can do is copy. In a weird way, this is good for the western world.


I think that's too optimistic. It seems to me that China manages to control the vast majority of the population. If you have technical expertise and perseverance, you can still circumvent the GFW (great firewall), install WhatsApp, etc., and I think you will continue to be able to - but most people in China don't.

(It's a bit like pirating music and movies in the west - you can still do it, but many people now use the legal options (iTunes, Netflix, ...), because it's just not worth the hassle.)

But the CCP doesn't care about a small elite knowing things.

OP contends that suppressing political discontent and censoring & controlling the communication of the vast majority of people will necessarily impede innovation and economic growth. That's not obvious to me at all, unfortunately.


The best they do is manufacture.

The kids growing now in West have lost ability to tinker.

If you are into electronics and manufacturing, China is like playground to experiment. In the west, we are losing rights to fix the gadgets we own.


Come on, check out Nature Index and see CAS. Or you can see the FAST telescope project located in China. Why you are so pride about the west. Every civilization has their ups and downs. In Song dynasty, what the West was doing?


> China being the world's giant copy machine has worked very well for those in power in China. Why not sustain that as long as possible?

Someone may correct me...

1. having a more open society results in more innovation, which results in more economic development which allows the ruling class to become even wealthier and more powerful globally

2. currently, only 18-20% of China is middle class. About 78% of China is still poor. If things slow down due to a lack of innovation, historically things get ugly.


This article has some very different numbers. Also, it may be a small percentage but the total number of individuals is huge. There's a lot of Chinese people, after all.

Anyhow, link:

https://chinapower.csis.org/china-middle-class/

As for the numbers in that link, I'm not sure of the validity. I see lots of different numbers quoted at different sites. I have to wonder if it is accurate. A couple even put their upper middle class at 35%.


According to your article (unless I misread it) the lower class is 68% of the population. While it has greatly improved, there's still a huge gap


Right, 32% vs. 18-20%. Which, in hard numbers, is quite a few individuals. Your post said 18-20%, so I figured I'd give you the current estimates for more accuracy. The estimates for upper-class were but 2%.

Probably important: There is some disparity in numbers. A few claimed higher, a couple had lower. Neither was significantly higher or lower, so I went with that one. Interestingly, a frequently listed number was 50% middle class by 2030.

My guess is that the numbers aren't accurately reported, which explains the variations.


> having a more open society results in more innovation

Yep.

> which results in more economic development

Yep.

> which allows the ruling class to become even wealthier and more powerful globally

This one does not follow. It's probably false. Even if China gains a ruling class that is wealthier than the current one (what isn't a given), there is no reason to think the same people will be there.


What he meant is it has worked well for a selected few in China, as well as those international tycoon.


Yes I understood. I'm just saying that it can be even better for those select few as well. i.e. they are leaving money on the table


Sorry, I have to disagree. How do you suppose more innovation would have happened if instead of China, blocking US tech, they let them have the whole market from the get go and instead of WeChat there would be Whatsapp and instead of Baidu, there would be Google? How is that more innovation?

You can just look at Europe.

I'm not advocating any policies or supporting anyone. I am just disputing the claim that free markets maximise innovation in this particular instance.


> How do you suppose more innovation would have happened if instead of China, blocking US tech, they let them have the whole market from the get go and instead of WeChat there would be Whatsapp and instead of Baidu, there would be Google?

1. Competition breeds innovation. Monopolies and the like encourage stagnation.

2. How do you know Google would win in China if China didn't block them? Unlike Europe, China is extremely nationalistic. Even if the home brand was slightly worse, it would still probably win the majority of the market. Of course, the only thing stronger than Chinese nationalism is Chinese pessimism so we'll never know.


Sometimes trade protectionism is good for an economy. In fact it's the strategy all the somewhat successful Asian nations (South Korea, Japan, Taiwan, China) used to get ahead, whereas the countries who followed the neoliberalist model of the west too closely (Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, etc) lagged behind. Suggest reading 'How Asia Works' by Joe Studwell.


> instead of WeChat there would be Whatsapp and > instead of Baidu, there would be Google

I think that's the kind of thing that the parent poster meant with this phrase:

> The end result is that China's fate as being > relegated to being the world's giant copy machine


Just for context, Chinese made 122 millon overseas trips last year https://www.travelchinaguide.com/tourism/2016statistics/outb...

The censorship of social media is mainly to prevent collective action:

"The study showed that, contrary to western conventional wisdom, Chinese social media is as raucous and chaotic as it is everywhere else, so the Daily Mail’s idea of a country full of timid, faceless people with only banal opinions is baloney.

The study also revealed, though, that these outlets are ruthlessly but astutely censored: what gets taken down, apart from the usual suspects such as Falun Gong, pornography, democracy etc, are any posts that could conceivably stimulate collective action, even when the posts are favourable towards the government. You can say more or less what you like in China, in other words, as long as nothing you say might have the effect of getting people out on to the streets."

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/jan/22/chines...


doesn't sound like a ticketing time bomb at all..


I used to think this way too until I went to china. The current batch of US apps are also copies of earlier apps. Remember chatting on bbses? IRC, ICQ, etc?

China doesn’t need western internet companies, they have a quarter of the world’s population. Can you blame them for wanting to promote home grown apps to build wealth within their country? Also, they like control, why would you let an foreigner end to end encryption app into your country? I don’t agree with their control but it’s not my country.

I’m surprised iMessage worked for me while I was there. I wonder what consessions Apple had to give for that?


I’m surprised iMessage worked for me while I was there. I wonder what consessions Apple had to give for that?

From the article:

'Other services provided by American technology companies are available in mainland China. The country tolerates Microsoft’s Skype service for phone calls, which does not provide end-to-end encryption and as a result is easier for governments to monitor. Beijing also allows Apple’s FaceTime service, which has end-to-end encryption but does not have a WhatsApp-like feature allowing users to exchange secret codes — letting WhatsApp users combat what are known as “man in the middle” attacks.'


Sorry, but is there any evidence that iMessage or FaceTime has been MITMed? In China or elsewhere?

(I wonder whether it's tolerated because of Apple's small market share...)


There is no eivdence that I know of. If Apple suddenly signed every message with a third key (a Chinese gov key) how would people know? Maybe a jail broken phone could detect this.. but only if the third key was added. They could do it to specific people and no one would know until it happened. I have no proof of this, only guessing what could happen.


The elite still probably likes to use iDevices themselves. Once they get some other luxury brands going its time for the concessions.


Could be yeah. But it really makes me wonder. I can’t see china allowing a messaging platform in their country that doesn’t have a way to monitor everything.

Maybe the fact that iPhones are all made in china allow them, for the time being.


The CCP congress is next month. They have always cracked down on censorship before it.

Their 5-years plan for 2016-2020 is about transitioning from the basic industry to more advanced industry and services. They want more research, they want more IT. Chinese IT workers are very critical of the Great Firewall and depend on VPNs to do a lot of things.

I think many are realizing that the Firewall is a handicap, but it is also undeniable that it is a very useful political tool. They will have to put that into the balance in front of their will to innovate.

They are also moving toward global leadership. In ecology, in foreign relations, they are willing to take the leadership that US is leaving. After being largely dismissive of it, if enough international pressure builds up, they may realize that opening up will help them reach these goals.

Sadly, thanks in no small part to Trump, they are probably realizing how dangerous it is to let people vote in a place where medias are not controlled, so my bet is that we will see either some more voting or some more openness in information exchange, but not both.

> To be fair, things may even out since Western governments seem to be doing all they can to copy China's censorship and gov control.

USA is jailing more of its citizens than China. Even in absolute numbers. USA kills more non-citizens abroad than China. In EU we tend to side with USA anyway because it is a democracy but the last president had less votes than his opponent and is a white supremacist.

Understand that for most of the world, accepting USA as a good guy is already a hell of a compromise. Seeing China as acceptable is not more far-fetched.


If they actually open in response to some of the forces you name, great! More power to them. I, personally, think that would be their best move in terms of global competitiveness over the next 100 years.

But it takes some major cynicism to actually consider the moral impact of USA vs China on a global stage comparable. They are much quieter about their international adventurism, but they have a decades long history of protecting and supporting bad actors. Whatever the failure of the USA, North Korea would not be a new breakout nuclear power threatening to become the most likely scenario for nuclear war without major backing and even encouragement from China. China also has multiple ongoing, top-down, programmed genocides happening in several territories, including cultural and institutional colonization of Hong Kong and Taiwan.

And that's not even raising the question of who's political values are better, both morally and strategically, for the human race.

I understand why cynicism with the US (and the whole West in general) is high... but let's keep things in perspective here.


I am not saying that China is good. I am saying that both US and China are bad and that choosing between them is like choosing between plague and cholera.

> but they have a decades long history of protecting and supporting bad actors

- Saudi Arabia

- Talebans

- Pakistan

- Pinochet

- Putin

To name a few "nice" people who received a lot of support from the US.

> Whatever the failure of the USA, North Korea would not be a new breakout nuclear power threatening to become the most likely scenario for nuclear war without major backing and even encouragement from China.

The turning point for NK was in the 2000s. US had invaded Iraq on the obviously false pretense it had WMD. It had not. Had it, it may have repelled an invasion by using them. NK's stance on nuclear deterrence is a direct (and actually rational) reaction to GWB's foreign relations approach. Dubya's administration's lack of diplomacy skills caused that mess.

And yes, decades of lack of US plans in a place where it still has a lot of soldiers led to this situation and led to China (and a bit Russia) having the higher hand just because they kept their diplomatic channels open instead of speaking loudly and doing nothing. USA has bases in Japan and South Korea, of course China wants to keep a buffer.

Imagine if China had huge naval bases in Mexico, Cuba and Canada. You would be happy to give it an enemy to focus on rather than on yourself. De-escalation could have happened in the 2000s but I fear we now are past that point.

Now after 8 years of GWB and God knows how many more of Trump Japan is slowly coming to the idea that going full militaristic is not a bad idea and that they can't rely on US for managing the area. And they are right: China is becoming the dominant power in Asia and USA apparently decided to let it do.

> China also has multiple ongoing, top-down, programmed genocides happening in several territories, including cultural and institutional colonization of Hong Kong and Taiwan.

Calling that genocide is really disingenuous. This is just cultural influence by a behemoth. Calling it a genocide is as ridiculous as calling the US influence over EU culture a genocide.

If you want something closer to human rights violations by China, better look into what is happening in Tibet. You'll get things that look a lot dire, a bit like what US' allies are doing in Yemen or in Palestine (where, btw, there does not seem to be a plan other than a progressive ethnic cleansing).

Both are evil and supporting evil actors. None is interested in deescalation and solving the human rights violations in the world. Fuck both of these countries. And if I ever have to choose between the racist and imperialist ideology that the American spirit has become and the cold-hearted efficiency seeking technocracy of China, I'll just toss a coin. I would feel like Finland during WWII, stuck between the 3rd Reich and USSR. Both are bad, both are evil. The world would be better off without them.


> Seeing China as acceptable is not more far-fetched.

Then Europeans are just as native as their reputation. Every country acts in their own self interest. For some, democracy and free markets are in their interest. For some, no.


Problem is that, from past experiences, censorship were rarely alleviated even after the event it was supposed to serve. Situations deteriorated year by year. First it was TCP reset by keyword, then came the DNS poisoning, and then the blockage of whole IP ranges for Google, Facebook, twitter and other User-generated-content sites. Unregistered VPNs are expected to be the next.

Global leadership would be all but mirage if the reign were shattered. The ruling party knew this well.


True.

Hitting VPNs, however, is challenging a status-quo: before that they were tolerating that tech-savvy users could access internet outside China. It could be believed that they would let the people with enough of a legitimate reasonto pay for it access the outside.

I have the impression that there are more channels for official complaints than we often believe as westerners. I think that they will receive criticism from the whole IT sector. They want to develop international collaborations, this is directly at odds with the censorship of all chat platforms that are not controlled by the CCP.


The impact of so-called tech savvy users is exaggerated. Criticism from IT sector would be put out no harder than that in other cases. Organized commune hardly exists after so many years since the repression in 1989 and IT companies must be queuing in line to help out or the censorship would not be as effective as it is seen by now.


The criticism will more be in the form of "this thing impaired our economic goals and is at odds with this item in the five years plan"


China has a long and proud tradition as being at the forefront of civilization, and they see the last 100+ years or so just as a temporary setback. The current ruling class may not see the need to share with the outside world. This may sadly result in the decline of China's competitiveness on the world stage, but those in the ruling class may be more concerned with consolidating their power within the country. This is not a new problem for the Chinese; it's just repeating the cycle of every dynasty that came before.

On a separate note, Whatsapp has been copying WeChat's features rather than the other way around for years. So perhaps China thinks they can innovate enough on their own to match or outpace the outside world. While I don't think that's impossible, I don't think they've taken into account how much the cultural revolution wiped out a lot of culture and collective wisdom built up over the centuries, and that will put them at much more of a disadvantage than they realize.


WeChat's "features"? Come on people, these chat apps are pretty basic

I use both WeChat and WhatsApp extensively


Wechat had audio messages way before whatsapp. And the animated emojis way before facebook. Both used to be the shit when I was using wechat a couple of years ago. Also you can use wechat to as essentially a credit card. It's like a blob app that has everything in it.


Wechat = WhatsApp + Facebook + PayPal

Unless you mean Facebook and PayPal are nothing, you are wrong.


Completely agree that they will further cement their power, but it won't be at the cost of innovation and growth IMO.

China's access to leading technologies and technologists is absolutely unparalleled. The amount of Chinese students that are publishing some of the leading CS and ML research from the best universities and corporations worldwide is staggering when compared to all other nations.

China isn't 'Closing up' they are pushing people to use the services that they control and have insight into. Consider that Tencent, Baidu etc... all have major offices in SV, Seattle, LA etc. Remember the story from yesterday about the Chinese ADTech company giving $3M salaries? That's just growing.

Unless the US, Canada, France, Israel etc... closes the visa program for Chinese workers Chinese companies will continue to be relevant and innovative - and they will likely grow faster with more tailored services because, China has the biggest capabilities to mine user data - more than any other nation by far.


> The amount of Chinese students that are publishing...

That's the thing. These are mostly overseas Chinese working for US/European companies who have no desire to return to China. Talk to any of them, and they're always concerned about the status of their visa and are ecstatic when they become a citizen of a democracy.

> China isn't 'Closing up' they are pushing people to use the services

Tencent and Baidu are used by tiny tiny tiny portions of westerners

> Unless the US, Canada, France, Israel etc... closes the visa program

There's no need, these Chinese students are staying and not returning to China.

By the way, since you think China is doing such a good job of education: remember that Rural households have a per capita income of only 9,892 yuan – about $4 dollars a day. and there's 680 million of these rural households still.

"Surveys by Rozelle's team have found that more than half of eighth graders in poor rural areas in China have IQs below 90, leaving them struggling to keep up with the fast-paced official curriculum"

http://www.sciencemag.org/news/2017/09/one-three-chinese-chi...


Tencent and Baidu are used by tiny tiny tiny portions of westerners

That doesn't matter - they are focused on China and Asia. To think that they can't innovate inside the borders and with a significant number of people inside other companies and abroad is just putting blinders on.

since you think China is doing such a good job of education

Whoa, never said that. Mainland domestic policies for 1.7B (non official number) people are mediocre at best.


> who have no desire to return to China.

My understanding was that increasingly, overseas students are returning to China? (known as "hai gui", sea turtles)

See e.g. http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/china/2016-03/18/content_239314...


This is because they can't find jobs abroad and can't even speak a foreign language properly after spending their undergrad years in a Chinese international student bubble.

Quoting China Daily is irrelevant because it's a propaganda mouthpiece of the CCP.


That's not true, more and more students are coming back to China after they finish their education in the West. Not imaginable 20 years ago. Some PhDs are tapping the 1000plan.


> The amount of Chinese students that are publishing some of the leading CS and ML research from the best universities and corporations worldwide

Yes most of them are in the West. Most of them also end up staying in the West too.

> Unless the US, Canada, France, Israel etc... closes the visa program for Chinese workers Chinese companies... Consider that Tencent, Baidu etc... all have major offices in SV, Seattle, LA etc.

Having a physical satellite office where only a few select people have access to free flowing data is a lot more expensive and inefficient compared to being able to just freely communicate online. It's a bottleneck.


Most of them also end up staying in the West too.

Not true anymore - maybe a decade ago but it's not the case today.

Even for the ones that do stay, in my experience with the Machine Learning world they are going to work at Chinese owned or financed companies like the ones I mentioned.

[1] https://www.forbes.com/sites/kenrapoza/2017/04/17/chinas-bes...


You're right about the brain drain no longer being in effect. I suspect it's due to the new shortsighted trend with US immigration policy: https://nextshark.com/u-s-made-getting-visa-difficult-people... Not so much with people wanting to go back.

Still I feel it's still more inefficient and expensive compared to just having a free flow of information and data.


This situation is more nuanced that you might think. They are not preventing everybody from gaining access to outside ideas. In fact, they are actually encouraging their top students to spend time at elite universities abroad; they are aggressively pushing for more "partnerships" with top Western universities. Additionally, they have special Internet lines for approved entities, giving unrestricted access. In theory, selectively giving access to information this way is the best of both worlds; protecting the masses from "dangerous" foreign ideas that might challenge the Party's authority, whilst still gaining full advantage of the west's technical progress. In fact, what they've taken from the West has enabled their surveillance state. Western governments have being underestimating China for years, at their own peril. Sadly, China has not underestimated the West's thirst for money, and has used this to their own advantage.


I think the blocking of foreign corporations also serves as a way to eliminate competition for services that are created inside the country. Obviously they would be able to pressure the in country services to do whatever they want.


You're right. There's definitely protectionism, but imo moves like limiting VPN's go beyond that.


A lot of people use VPNs to access foreign services. It's quite popular to use Instagram in China, even though it's blocked.


On the other hand, the West seems to take Copywright and Patents much more seriously, which also dampens creativity a lot.

(The chilling effects from software patents alone seem to be very large)

I wonder how the effects compare.


> The people who will get ahead in China in the future are the ones who are somehow able to live outside of China to experience new ideas.

There are more people in China than in the United States, Europe, and Russia combined. China already manufactures your clothes, chips, computers, phones, and missile chips. I don't think it's correct, given the world's dependence on China, to say China is somehow behind the times (wrt computer innovation).


I had to Google the missile thing. Bit of a shocker: "Last year, the U.S. Navy bought 59,000 microchips for use in everything from missiles to transponders and all of them turned out to be counterfeits from China." (http://www.businessinsider.com/navy-chinese-microchips-weapo...)


It's really a touchy situation, no matter the angle you look at it.


manufacturing =/= innovation


Who do you think writes all the software for those manufacturing facilities? Yahoo?

Who has launched satellites into orbit to test quantum communications? Uber?

Don't get caught up in association fallacies about who is able to innovate. A quarter of the world lives in China.


Please elaborate on this, as history tells a different story.


This is not a new situation. I grew up in a more liberal part of China and always thought their political situation was their bottleneck for economic, cultural and human development. The state of the world right now shows how I was wrong.

And as you mentioned, tightening of control by different governments around the world seems to indicate that we have found a common trend and its not the liberal one...


There will be a bottleneck. It took hundreds of years of sea ban for Ming China to fall behind in the Age of Sail; it might take a few decades for a closed society to euthanize itself in a digital age built on free exchange and open discourse.


But thats not the direction communist china has been taking. It has been opening more and more since the 70s


Yes, it’s been that way until now. That was my point.


That is totally wrong. If you think that China lacks innovation then you clearly have never been there. China is one of the most dynamic capitalistic countries in the world and there is no shortage of innovation. Even if then they have 1/3rd the innovators as the US, they still have 40% more innovators than the U.S. Innovation will just happen within the context of Chinese political constraints. The real threat is not to innovators in China, but to the rest of the tech world who are locked out of the Chinese market because of assymetric market conditions.


> Innovation will just happen within the context of Chinese political constraints.

I was going to ask who are China's Hannah Arendt et al., but I think that answers it then. So, no meaningful innovation as far as I'm concerned. Just widgets and refining processes and extracting resources and moving money. In the conversation of minds about ideas and ways to live, that's like one hour in one afternoon. It's like a hamster wheel some are forever trapped in. Another revolution of the wheel isn't progress or innovation. Kind of like taking heroin isn't like seeing your child cure cancer.. it's a shit substitute that attaches to receptors that can be used much more meaningful. It's kind of tragic that the best one can say about China is that it repeats the mistakes of the West, without even something like popular rock music, not to mention the Blues. Innovation? Who is the Chinese Jimi Hendrix? Bill Hicks? Not that the man eating machinery of the US can take credit for people who emerged in spite of it, and I bet there's a lot great underground stuff in China (there is Chinese punk, for example: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fseb62y_Vmc ). But on the shiny toothpaste commercial level it's being discussed here? There's nothing, there's a gaping, howling absence of anything worth any of the murder and destruction of the mind entailed by totalitarian control. None of those "achievements" justify even a single peasant clubbed to death. Those who don't know that, in the West or East or on the moon, are still just cavemen in jet planes.


ok, I understand that this is an emotional subject (I can relate), so please re-read the comment that you're responding to.

1. It didn't say China lacks innovation.

2. It is not critical of China as a whole. It is critical of the ones making stupid, selfish laws in China out of fear, which imo will hurt growing innovation in China.

3. If there's no shortage of Chinese innovation, why is there so much fear of 'inferior' outside competition?


Yet, the comment does say China lacks innovation.

> The end result is that China's fate as being relegated to being the world's giant copy machine is sealed unless things revert

Why do you think that China has "fear of 'inferior' outside competition"?


No the comment says China WILL lose its current momentum for innovation. It’s a prediction of the future

It’s pretty evident China fears outside competition when they block competitors from entering their market. They have no confidence in their home grown companies surviving contrary to hard evidence


You assume facts not in evidence and write as if your biases are evident as the truth.

China has a history of blocking outside influence in order to control the populace, so fear of competition with apps may not be the motivation.


Chinese protectionism isn't new and it isn't limited to apps. There's been more than enough written on the subject.


This article is about an app being blocked in China through protectionism.


Is there any reason why my arguments should be limited to 1 article even though it's still on the same subject?


I don't think there is virtually any impact on innovations in China because of western social media censorships. China is on track to match US in AI research paper output, for example. Same goes for other fields in medicine and manufacturing. Also, you have to look at Chinese view point to understand why there is no revolt in China around blocking Google or Facebook. The argument that government has successfully made is that China is not ready for democracy, the democracy usually means incompetent politicians coming to power because of their ability to fool people and that lot of developing countries which adopted democracy have managed to make only a tiny fraction of progress that China has made (for example, compare India with China in metrics like GDP, research output or army).


High-output of research papers from China is not surprising at all: considering they pay hundreds of thousands of dollars per paper published in a prestigious journal[1].

[1]: https://www.timeshighereducation.com/news/chinese-scholars-w...


It's not too different from the publish or perish culture in US academia, only with a solid cash reward for publishing in peer reviewed journals. I mean professors here are filtered for number of articles here too. Considering the amount of funding that goes to research groups in some universites with the same amount of quality research output as research groups in smaller universities with drastically lower funding, I don't even think it's economically wasteful.


I've been reading Westerners talk about how China is doomed for 10 years now. Every "mean" or disagreeable thing they do seemingly spells doom for their regime, but they keep getting bigger and more powerful.

Maybe I should read less English-language media on the subject.


> China's ruling class further cement their power at the cost of China's innovation and future growth.

The same thing happens in the U.S on another level. This isn't necessarily a case the choking of the free flow of information and censorship, but I think we've all seen a steady increase in the future being delayed for the now.

Around a month ago, there was an question on HN discussing train automation and why it isn't already done as it seems much easier to automate than other forms of transportation. A first-hand account commented that it was because unions have been fighting to block it to keep their jobs; stalling innovation and future growth.


They're actually blocking to increase innovation and future growth... of domestic products. Not being subject to a foreign chat app monopoly (although Whatsapp wasn't even close to that) is what they're trying to avoid.


China has gone from basically poverty to the second largest economy in the world in roughly 25 years. You have to give them a little credit for doing something right. As long as people have food to eat and people 's lives are getting better they will put up with government. Once that stops happening problems will start happening. Are there negatives? Yes. Lack of freedom. Corruption. At the same time people are able to get job not worry about food etc. You have to look at the baseline of where they where.


To clear things up, my comment has nothing to do the accomplishments of Zhou Enlai and Deng Xiaoping. It's not a criticism of China as a whole, it's just criticism of the policies of the current CCP faction in power, which will likely erase some of the gains that you mention in the long run. The difference between back then and today is that in the past China couldn't always enforce dumb laws. Now they can.


I disagree - I think having some control over the self-destructive urges of a population during times of economic trouble is a positive thing. Several democracies with cancerous social media networks are teetering on the brink of right-wing proto-fascist parties as a result of the recent recession and perceived immigration issues.

The mob needs to be controlled for progress to be protected.


This would be hilarious if it wasn't so tragic. You realize this is exactly what every evil dictator in history thought? They didn't wake up one morning and decide to be evil, they were trying to do what they thought was right. In their minds they were good, they were actually trying to make the world a better place, according to their world view. They had great plans, and the foolish mob didn't know what was best for them. And one thing led to another.

So what if the right-wing people in charge had the same ideas as you? Several democracies with cancerous social media networks have been teetering on the brink of left-wing national socialism, the mob needs to be controlled.

What we dislike about fascists and their ilk is not the right-wing or left-wing part, it is how they deal with those they disagree with. Stalin was responsible for more deaths than Hitler, Mao for more than Stalin, neither of them right wing. If you were able to enforce what you suggest, you would be worse than those you oppose.

But you are right about democracies devolving in certain times of stress. How about this statement instead? "The mob needs to be inspired by the self-sacrificial service of good leaders for progress to be made"


Or, there could be some genuine redistribution so the mobs wouldn't have to be suppressed by the hording, greedy bourgeoisie.


>"What the long-term effects will be: China's ruling class further cement their power at the cost of China's innovation and future growth.

They are are the bread basket of the Western tech world's hardware though. Does anyone else have the facilities and expertise to churn out that hardware that the dominant West tech giants rely on? Couldn't you argue that they are already innovating?

With Huawei, Xiaomi and BBK they don't need the West's hardware designs. And being able to cherry pick successful ideas of the West's tech companies they have the best of both worlds. And with a population of over a billion people it seems like the West's tech giants need them more than the other way around. I am not saying I agree with their polices just that I don't see how they don't find those policies concerning.


China does have one hope, the need of censor will drive its technology innovation and even takes the bulk of its economy GDP. As you hinted China's leading censorship will inspire the world how much human can revert the process of internet, un-internet is what China will make its name for.


Tithe GFW has been around since 1998. I'm not sure it's going to eat the bulk of their GDP and it doesn't appear to have stopped them from innovating.

It's a horrible idea, don't get me wrong, it is just that it doesn't look like it is going to be the end of them.


This kind of policy hinders China's innovation in the long term. But in this specific case, wechat is way ahead (years ahead I would say) of what's app in terms of innovation or utility.


> The more China closes up, the less Western companies have to fear about future tech dominance or crazy innovation from China in the long run.

Not sure about this, they're pretty prolific at sending their students out to learn from others. They've also invested a lot in their universities recently.

Also maybe innovation is a bit overrated? So far China's been doing well being the "world's giant copy machine", and learning from our mistakes to see what really works.


Putting citizens in the strict climate that China has created almost certainly causes a chilling effect for some ideas. But what if the ideas that it chills are ones that generally detract from the goal of China becoming a world power?

I'm not ready to rule out the idea that China has become a global power because of, and not in spite if, the way that it controls citizens.


I know another copying machine that works very well:

https://thehustle.co/rocket-internet-oliver-samwer


This kind of policy definitely hinders China's long term innovation. But in this specific case, wechat is way ahead of what'sapp in terms of innovation and utility.


This is just a temporary ban saudia just allowed use of whatsapp calling as they were given access and allowed to monitor. China will also allow once it gets access.


Are there historical examples of states imposing social control while also succeeding technologically? I can only think of the counter examples.


The west is nowhere near China enough it comes to censorship and government control. It’s an entirely different league.


My comment was about the future and not the past or present


>China's ruling class further cement their power at the cost of China's innovation and future growth.

Talking about innovations, there are few areas where China is ahead of the whole world - like AliPay and WeChat payment systems. I am wondering how you gonna explain China's success when its GDP surpass United States one.


Chinese have no problem sharing. If you've used wechat you'll know it's western tech that has fallen behind.


Wiki says (though who wrote it?) 'It (wechat) is widely known as one of the world's most innovative and versatile app, as well as China's "App For Everything", with numerous unique functions and platforms ranging from 'payment' to 'social media' to 'services' to 'shopping' and more, that are equivalent to multiple Google Play or App Store's apps, but merged into one.

Is it that impressive vis a vis Western Tech?


Yes. Look at the iPhone for example. All the tech existed before but not in one package. WeChat is the future. Even Facebook are scrambling to copy features now.


WeChat is pretty innovative


"their power at the cost of China's innovation and future growth"

Partly.

The exception is that the Chinese are pretty good at this stuff, and that 'blocking foreign companies' simply let's local companies dominate.

'SnapChat' and 'What's App' are no innovation. For the most part.

They are mostly just 'chat apps'. That's it.

Ok, Snapchat does a 'really good job' at the 'visual storytelling part'. But China does not need that cutting-edge level of social interaction for a few years until someone copies it well.

They'll do fine.

China is actually big enough - and their techies are talented/aggressive enough - that they can get away with a lot of these shenanigans.

You obviously have a good point though.


> 'blocking foreign companies' simply let's local companies dominate.

Yes - in particular, consider that China has more people than North America and Europe together, so a Chinese "domestic" firm has quite a market.


> Yes - in particular, consider that China has more people than North America and Europe together, so a Chinese "domestic" firm has quite a market.

India has +1 billion too but no one to sell to


side note:

People decry Trump for his words on 'starting a trade war' with China.

I am no fan of Trump or Bannon - but on this they are right: we are already in a trade war.

Blocking companies from participating arbitrarily, making it 'very difficult' for others, currency manipulation, capital controls, outright theft of IP.

This, in any other situation is a trade war.

Imagine the EU just says 'no Google in Europe'. That's crazy. It's a trade war.

Because back in the 1980's, the world basically let China do as they please because they were 'rebuilding' (think Japan or Korea after their wars) - we sort of got used to it.

But if China is going to play this game (hey, it's their right), then there should be a response of some kind.

Responding to 'trade intransigence' is not a 'trade war' - it's just tit for tat.

Won't happen though - as big USA corps are so greedy to want a big massive slice of the magic unicorn dangled in front of the by the Chinese gov, they shut up and 'kow-tow' :). It's changing maybe a little bit though, what I'm saying is not new, it's just not spoken that much publicly.

For some interesting insight see Charlie Rose w/Richard McGregor:

https://charlierose.com/videos/30937


> What the long-term effects will be: China's ruling class further cement their power at the cost of China's innovation and future growth.

Yeah blocking a foreign competitor is going to be terrible for innovative Chinese startups.


Why wouldn't the Chinese hear about the next best mouse trap if whatsapp is banned?

Why wouldn't the manufacturer of next best mouse trap like to sell the product in China if whatsapp is banned?

As far as Chinese government is concerned there is no downside to banning whatsapp.

It's not like whatsapp has turned into substitute for Nature for scientific publication.

Many capitalist companies like the controls of communist China. They find it easier to do business in. Does that make China more innovative for new businesses compared to open monitoring in the western world?

Is Apple going to move manufacturing to USA because China banned whatsapp? hell, no.

China gets to make an example out of whatsapp to make smaller players play by their rules, giving auditing powers and speech controls to Chinese government, or get locked out of 15% of world's emerging market population.

Lesson to progressive liberals of western world, appreciate what you got here and work to protect it, instead of insulting western values at every opportunity.


1, Chrome complains the newtimes link illegal. 2, Don't say what you don't know. The copy machine stating is the old fashion. Didn't you know china and typography thousands years ago? fine. there is a little thing. at jroller/qinxianscript, there is a antialias tec, no none knows the better one, even Nvidia and AMD. sigh, looking at your mouth pronounce trends, maybe you wanna say China maybe copy the benefit from the little place GBE colonization. Did you know the civil servants system of English copied from where? So from a man view, there should be developing and applying, should not be evil. Din't you know you live in a les miserables?


[dead]


Since you continue to violate the guidelines with inflammatory nationalistic rants, we've banned the account.


Edit: This is not a justification or defense of internet censorship. It is an explanation of why the Chinese public may be more willing to accept strict government controls than the West.

While most Westerners see actions like this as serious violations of individual rights, the Chinese are used to such exercises of control by their leaders. There is a firm historical basis for similar behavior going back thousands of years, and the desire for social harmony and stability which in part enables strict government control through tacit public acceptance is deeply rooted in Chinese culture.

It's important for Westerners to realize that the Chinese never had a Locke, or a Rousseau, or a Hobbes. The foundational political philosophy taken for granted in the West has no parallel in China. Their political philosophy is grounded in a very different hierarchy of values.


> It's important for Westerners to realize that the Chinese never had a Locke, or a Rousseau, or a Hobbes.

Neither did South America but they were inspired by all of them when they formed their modern republics after the various revolutions, after kicking out the Spanish rulers in the 1800s the military generals had a choice to form democracies and they sought inspiration from Europe, just as America did a century earlier...

Almost every European country had a legacy of monarchy, Japan with their Empire, etc. There's a long history of centralized control in every culture. Why is China unique?

The problem is China went the authoritarian route, the party defines the culture, it's not a natural phenomenon of the people. It won't matter if there is a shift towards liberalism when people don't have a choice.

Not to mention Hong Kong and Taiwan aren't far from China's core culture yet they respect liberalism. Chiang-kai Shek could easily have won the war against Mao and it's entirely possible their culture would look a lot more like South Korea or Japan and less "Chinese".

People downplay the complete and total effectiveness of government controlled media and propaganda campaigns. This idea that Chinese culture is just different from the 'west' is exactly what is forced down the Chinese people's throats, it's the party line - not an original concept. The "chinese way" is what they constantly use to justify their repressive actions. While any time anything bad happens in the West they promote those acts widely in the media as examples of the flaws of the western worldview, while thoroughly suppressing their own flaws... so I'm highly suspicious when I hear this excuse.


>Neither did South America

What are you talking about? South America was colonized by the Portuguese and Spanish, which most definitely come from the western liberal tradition.

It's fine to take a position against "Chinese culture", but it should be an honest one.


I'm basing that off a book I read which described how the original liberators of South America (who were mainly locals, not from the Spanish or Portuguese elite who ruled) were heavily influenced by these (mainly French and English) liberal European thinkers - which is why they wanted a revolution in the first placed. It didn't come from local culture.

The Spanish did not create liberal "western" democracies when they ruled. They were replacing a monarchical, heavily centralized system and the liberators had a choice in how they modelled their country. They certainly considered many different options including heavily centralized systems but the influences of European thinkers as mentioned above played a big role in their decision to build republics and federalized states.

My point is that many cultures (including Japan and South Korea) came from a legacy of centralized control and were still capable of being inspired by foreign thinkers and adopting liberal systems.

This idea that China is unique because they didn't have their own bastion of local liberal thinkers is heavily flawed because that pattern exists elsewhere with different outcomes. Especially considering how close Chiang-kai Shek was to moving China towards a more western economic system. It wasn't the 'Chinese way' that won out, it was a series of politically fortunate events in Mao's favour.

The Chinese culture is a product of a self-protecting centralized system, not (merely) a product of the historical culture.


The political and social culture of South America, at the time of their wars of independence, was undeniably based on European culture and values, at least among the educated classes that actively participated in all that. Their blood descent is not particularly relevant - what matters is the kind of books they grew up with, roughly speaking.


I don't think that japan and south korea fits too well in here japan was ruled by america in the years after the second world war, which is where a lot of the modern thinking is coming from. And I belive that similar thing have been happening in south korea, but I am not too sure of that.


If you look a bit further into Chinese history, it makes sense why they're so hesitant of the west - China was literally screwed over by the West for almost a century (see Century of Humiliation, the Opium Wars, Unequal Treaties, having British military in their capital, etc.). They went from being a leader of the world to being treated like crap by the West in a fairly short time period. This idea of "Chinese Exceptionalism" came from this innate desire for China to be unique again (the original "Make X Great Again").

Mao's success I think reinforced some the idea that the only way for China to stand on its own was to be united and strongly controlled and maintained. The hundreds of years of having different clans pre-Mao (or weak dynasties like Qing) just didn't work.

While I might not completely agree with their arguments, it's worth understanding Chinese criticism and their skepticism of the West. China is literally 4x the size of the US with a very rich and complicated history and thinking, so we can't just assume you can put in Western democracy/thinking just like that. Sure a lot of it may be encouraged by the party, but I think a lot of is much deeper than that.


Keep in mind that Hong Kong was a British colony for 150+ years (contiguous minus the Japanese occupation during WWII). The fact that Hong Kong represents liberal Western values should surprise nobody. While the PRC represents much of Chinese philosophy and has mandated it be taught to its citizens, the leaders of Hong Kong were never in this mindset. The British Crown was above China, and thus people learned more about Western ideals. Even today, Hong Kong is mostly autonomous and it makes sense that its people would continue supporting the ideas that they have been taught or have lived under in the past.

As for Taiwan, I think it is important to remember that, while Chiang Kai-Shek was seemingly "less Chinese" than Mao, the two had many similarities. Like Mao, Chiang Kai-Shek was a believer in socialism and nationalism, with his own cult of personality. He also was responsible for his own purges early on and was very much a dictator. While he had support from many international countries, he was only slightly more liberal than Mao (which probably had to do with a number of factors, but I think it's important to note that he was educated in Japan at one point). It was not until after his death that Taiwan became democratic, and I think one of the reasons for this was because Taiwan had aligned itself with Western countries when it was driven out of mainland China. Had the ROC won and the PRC lost, I don't think much would be different here. It's possible to say that the fact that the ROC was anti-communism contributed to these changes, but Chiang Kai-Shek was by no means a supporter of democracy. To me it seems like the deciding factor for Taiwan becoming less authoritarian was almost certainly due to their defeat, and that the PRC would very likely follow in those same footsteps had the roles been reversed.

That all is to say that, despite the differences between Hong Kong/Taiwan and mainland China, the PRC is extremely representative of Chinese culture. The modern values of Taiwan and Hong Kong are obviously very different, but had different circumstances played out (Taiwan winning/Hong Kong becoming an independent Chinese state rather than becoming a colony) I do believe that these countries would end up nearly identical to modern China.


The last paragraph also happens to perfectly describe how Russia works. All exactly the same.


Serious question: what would happen if China abolished the Communist Party or whatever they call and chose democracy. Chaos? Breakdown of the country into separate states /provinces? Civil war? Military rule?

I would not want to the one in charge the day after. Obviously (moderated) rule by the people is best but not sure how China and say countries in the mold of Saudi Arabia will handle it.


What is "China" in this case? Its government is the Communist Party. It's not going to abolish itself!

The question to ask, if you want China to change, is to ask how would the Chinese Communist Party lose its grip on power. That would probably need to happen following an economic crisis. However, looking at how badly the Chavistas are driving Venezuela into the ground these days, and how much they're able to hold onto power, you can see that it's not easy to get rid of a government with a lot of resources. The boiling frog theorem applies here. A sudden shock, sudden famine, sudden economic turmoil is what's most likely to create the conditions of regime change.


To take the analogy a bit further with the boiling frogs, the frogs jumped out of the water, until Goltz removed the brains from the frogs.

So, how does that relate to China? Well, if they still have brains, they will reach a tipping point as the water warms. More closely, so long as they have access to information (I think) they will eventually decide that enough is enough.

So, then the question is do they have enough information? Do they have enough freedom to communicate with each other?

It's hard to say. I've been to China and I think the answer is actually an affirmative. They have plenty of information. They all know about the GFW, the censorship, and how it is different than the West. They don't appear to be under any illusions.

I've spoken, in person, with multiple people in China and they all know those things, as well as being up to date with their current local and national politics. It's hard to describe, but they just seem to accept it. I don't want to say they see it as a good thing, but they all pretty much say that it is for the national harmony.

They know about Tianamen square. They even have a special word for censorship - river crab, though I forget the reason. They know about the death penalties. They know about the corruption of local and national politicians. They seem to be as aware of their politics as much as we are aware of our own, maybe even more so.

It's a different mentality, I guess? They accept it and think it helps promote social harmony. It wasn't easy, and still isn't, for me to get my head around.


"River crab" is homophone with "harmony", an euphemism for censorship.

As for why people accept the situation, one can probably start with "Nash equilibrium" (I chose not to use the term "prisoners' dilemma" as that could project uneeded connotation in this context).


Near, thanks. I'd had it explained to me, but had long since forgotten.

It was very different to go there in person. I expected an undercurrent of political unrest and dismay with the things like censorship. It really didn't seem like I met anyone willing to vocalize serious displeasure.


> What is "China" in this case? Its government is the Communist Party. It's not going to abolish itself!

I've read that something close to 1/3rd of the Chinese population is a member of the party or whose livelihood directly depends on it in some fashion where they are essentially a member.

So this is a very good question.


If such a large proportion of the country is in the party, then... what's the problem? As I understand it, essentially any high performing college student can join the party, and then there's deal making and voting within the party. I wouldn't be surprised if there's different "factions" within the party, each fighting for control, or each who have a different vision for the future.

Isn't that just a different framing of the same basic setup in the U.S. where say 1/3 of the population is in the mid/upper class and debate about and set policy and direction for the country? We call our factions "parties" but other than naming things at different levels I'm not really sure I see much of a difference.


When I was studying in China I happened to find myself sitting next to a group of Chinese my age (college age) studying intently in the common area of the University building I was in. I asked them what they were studying, and they told me they were studying for the exam they had to take in order to join the Communist party.

I was a bit taken aback, because these students didn't seem like 'communists', whatever that connoted in my mind at the time. They were about 6 of them, mix of men and women. They showed me what they were studying, some Marxist political philosophy, and told me that they wanted to join in order to improve their career opportunities.

Now, if that isn't the most hilarious irony in history I'm not sure what is. Studying Marxist political philosophy to join the Communist Party to unlock lucrative career opportunities. Priceless.


> As I understand it, essentially any high performing college student can join the party

Not necessarily. I understand that it also takes personal connections and/or a little bribery to get in.

> and then there's deal making and voting within the party. I wouldn't be surprised if there's different "factions" within the party, each fighting for control, or each who have a different vision for the future.

My understanding is that this is absolutely true at the higher levels of the party, but not so much at the regular levels. Party membership itself doesn't confer much privilege or power.


India with its 1.3 billion people is capable of operating via a Democratic system (with its various issues and flaws not detracting from that fact), and they're even poorer than China and with fewer resources. There's no reason China can't manage a successful (even if messy) transition away from authoritarianism to a variation of representative government.


They could do it, but the current leadership doesn't seem interested.


Corruption is worse in India than China, and that's problem one. Not coincidentally, growth in India has generally been slower (until recently) and just dropped. And India may be devolving into a theocracy. Not the most attractive example.


It always surprises me what surprises people.

Peeps, how about a little bibliography if you're going to downvote? A downvote isn't supposed to mean "I wish that weren't true, so it can't be."

Too close to call on corruption https://www.theguardian.com/news/datablog/interactive/2011/d...

Theocracy, read about the BJP, and restriction of freedom of the press around religion. This might be a start: Censoring Indian History By Audrey Truschke Posted 27th July 2017, 11:50 Laws against religious offence in India have altered the writing and understanding of the nation’s past.

In the end, I made numerous wording changes to both books and, most dramatically, in Aurangzeb I cut several sentences that outlined Shivaji’s caste background and relations with Brahmins, the priestly caste, topics which are especially sensitive to those who subscribe to the modern mythology of Shivaji. In addition, the publisher declined to publish a map in the Indian edition of Aurangzeb showing the extent of the Mughal Empire, noting that a prison term can now await those who publish maps of India without first gaining government approval. Religious (and nationalist) sentiments are increasingly trumping historical truth in modern India.

Audrey Truschke is the author of Aurangzeb: The Life and Legacy of India’s Most Controversial King (Stanford University Press, 2017) and Culture of Encounters: Sanskrit at the Mughal Court (Columbia University Press, 2016).

http://www.historytoday.com/audrey-truschke/censoring-indian...


Not sure that's an informative answer. Can't always trust what the MSM says. Not sure from where you got such a notion.


Are you nuts?


There are different strong claims based on ideologies while none can be falsified. Let's look at the history: 1.The revolution of 1911 that overthrown the Qing dynasty was based on the idea that a democratic and prosperous new China will be established. It didn't happen. Instead there was tens of years of bloody civil war. 2.In the Culture Revolution between 1966-1976, the grass root democracy was encouraged by Chairman Mao at the beginning for his political purpose. There was a chaos all over the country that every cities/towns/factories/schools there would be (almost) exactly two parties fighting with each other while both claimed to loyal to Chairman Mao.

The Chinese elite already know what's the consequence CCP is gone. Most normal Chinese as well as all Westerners don't know.


There is no "the" Chinese. There are a lot of individual people, and if you took a Chinese baby and raised it in an encouraging way, there is no Chinese gene that would make them timid and obedient regardless. And just like you wouldn't take, say, an alcoholic, and say that being an alcoholic is obviously the best way for them to be, or they wouldn't be one, I don't see how that is any more sensible with "cultures". I reject it.

People hiding behind each other and in hierarchies is no less dysfunctional than people plastering over the holes in their souls with material goods and what have you, and harmony is a complete stranger to both, at least as I understand it. When I speak with a human being who wears a saddle of some kind, has some kind of dirt on their lens, peace enters my mind after the conversation, after the fake, uptight, unhappy circus leaves town and me with my mind and the world around me as it is, not as overly fearful people inside it want me to describe it.


Different cultures have different relationships to authority. Han culture is very different from the west.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Power_distance


I get the impression that the idea that Chinese culture is somehow more naturally accepting of authoritarianism is part of a propaganda narrative promoted by Chinese authoritarians to protect their own power.

> China Takes Aim at Western Ideas

> http://www.nytimes.com/2013/08/20/world/asia/chinas-new-lead...

> Communist Party cadres have filled meeting halls around China to hear a somber, secretive warning issued by senior leaders. Power could escape their grip, they have been told, unless the party eradicates seven subversive currents coursing through Chinese society.

> These seven perils were enumerated in a memo, referred to as Document No. 9, that bears the unmistakable imprimatur of Xi Jinping, China’s new top leader. The first was “Western constitutional democracy”; others included promoting “universal values” of human rights, Western-inspired notions of media independence and civic participation, ardently pro-market “neo-liberalism,” and “nihilist” criticisms of the party’s traumatic past.


There is no basis to assume that cultures are similar in their power distance. More traditional cultures generally have more power distance.

Whose propaganda is the higher acceptance of authority of Americans compared to many European countries?

PDI (Power distance index):

    81   MEXICO
    80   CHINA
    68   HONG KONG
    58   TAIWAN
    54   JAPAN
    40   UNITED STATES
    31   SWEDEN
    18   DENMARK
http://www.clearlycultural.com/geert-hofstede-cultural-dimen...


That was new (for me) and interesting, thanks for posting that. I'm actually surprised to see such a small distance between e.g. Germany and USA, where I observed much more power disparity. Possibly because Germans are, as a whole, "closer" to each other in relative power, but at the same time more accepting of the idea of a constituted authority which rules over them? It might be nice to see these values reported independently (Actually trying to figure out if this is what the other indexes IDV MAS UAI LTO represent).

*Edit Never mind they're different indicators: Power Distance Index | Individualism | Masculinity | Uncertainty Avoidance Index | Long-Term Orientation


Chinese philosophical roots include both Confucianism and Taoism, as well as the imported schools of though associated with Buddhism, and more recently quite a lot of modern Western ideas (particularly Marxism).

Taoism is anti-authoritarian in the extreme. Buddhism is significantly more neutral on the subject but is definitely aligned closely with personal liberation and at minimum it does not make special exceptions for authorities. There are many famous incidents involving Bodhidharma trying to disillusion authority figures about their own authority.

So I disagree with you that there are no Chinese philosophical traditions that are anti-authoritarian or that promote individual liberty. There are, but they are losing right now.


> Chinese philosophical traditions that are anti-authoritarian or that promote individual liberty

Would you count Mozi/Mohism among them?

And what about after the Han synthesis? Confucianism and legalism seem to have tempered the anti-authoritarian Taoist ideas.


I think your characterization of Buddhism might be a bit one dimensional.

Tradition Tibetan society, for example, seems very hierarchical to me.


you're correct, there are many many different varieties of Buddhism. It's more correct to talk about Buddhisms since it's not just one thing. In the Chinese context though we're generally looking at Mahayana schools ranging from apolitical to anti-authoritarian. The Chan/Zen school founded by Bodhidharma is particularly anti-authoritarian though.


It's important for Westerners to realize that the Chinese never had a Locke, or a Rousseau, or a Hobbes. The foundational political philosophy taken for granted in the West has no parallel in China. Their political philosophy is grounded in a very different hierarchy of values.

I was quite young around the time of Tienanmen Square, but I seem to recall a Statue of Liberty and a lot of talk about democracy, before the protests were crushed. I wonder how Locke, or a Rousseau, or a Hobbes would have fared in the face of the equivalent state suppression.


IMHO it is not just the hierarchy of values. In Turkey Wikipedia has been blocked for months, without a court order. The government man-in-the-middle's its own citizens and makes wikipedia unreachable. Even if you use a dns, they spoof the dns and redirect you to their own IP. It seems to me that people do not care, when it is the internet.

The thoughts of Locke, Rousseau, Hobbes are taught nearly in every university and there is no culture of conformity. People seem to simply not care, or are afraid to speak their minds.


Apathy is conformity by default.


Yeah my experience is that Americans lock on to how horrible and oppressed China must be, "those poor victims", perpetuated and validated by the Chinese-Americans whose parents came here after a revolution and have little-to-no connection to life in mainland China after that point, but the other Americans elevate the Chinese-American view as more canonical and don't dare to challenge it. While this stands in direct contrast to a large proportion of mainland Chinese who don't find the social order to be controversial at all.


They may be used to it, but I strongly suspect (given the widespread use of VPN's in china) they're not totally cool with it.


> the Chinese are used to such exercises of control by their leaders

When was the last time the Chinese elected their leaders? the fact that they are "used" to this doesn't mean they approve. If there is a consensus, then let the Chinese people sanctify it with a democratic vote.


> the Chinese never had a Locke, or a Rousseau, or a Hobbes

How about Lao-Tzu? https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Laozi


Perhaps you could give examples as to how they are similar?


I wonder if the intent is to compare their outputs directly, or to point out that China has its history of great writers just like the West. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chinese_classics is a nice list.)


> Edit: This is not a justification or defense of internet censorship. It is an explanation of why the Chinese public may be more willing to accept strict government controls than the West.

What are you talking about? The west has completely accepted surveillance by it's governments. The ideas by Locke, Rousseau, or Hobbes have 0 effect on western society. If you think western society is an 'freer', it's only because it's the perfect illusion created by your echo chamber.


That's simply factually wrong. The US has much better press freedoms, freedom of speech and gun ownership rights than any other large country.

It has nothing to do with an echo chamber. The laws are objectively very different.

Comparing surveillance by the NSA to information accessibility in general is disingenuous at best.


"Than any other large country" is a big stretch. The US is ranked 43rd on this year's Press Freedom Index.


Correct -- and no country with a higher population is higher ranked.

Or even close, really.


> The US has much better press freedoms, freedom of speech and gun ownership rights than any other country.

Any country that requires and authorizes gun ownership is broken to start with. That you think this is somehow superior and better is.. I don't know what to say.

> Comparing surveillance by the NSA to access to information in general is disingenuous at best.

What's the difference?


Please justify your claims here. Most trends to ban weapons in politics are rooted in authoritarian desires disguised in “but think of the children!” emotional rhetoric without logical justification. There is actually a very deep theory behind why gun/weapon ownership is a necessary freedom derived from the fundamental human right of “self ownerhip” (which China would prefer you ignore), which we can dive into here.

In short: If you do not have the right to defend a thing, you do not truly own it. If I give you an apple, but say “you’re not allowed to stop me if I try to take it back”, then you do not truly own the apple. Even if I continue to let you have the apple, ultimately I remain the sole owner of the apple (despite any illusions of the contrary) because I have the exclusive power over it. This applies to the self as well; if you do not have the right to effectively defend yourself, you are effectively owned by your government.

If only your government has the authority to physical force towards defense of your property and yourself, then it is your government that truly owns you and ‘your’ property. All notions of ownership you may have are illusory, in the absence of such rights to defense.

Now in China, at least there is no illusion of freedom. Everyone knows they are owned by the government.


Guns are a constitutional right and a crucial part of self-defense. Not sure what the issue is to you.

>What's the difference?

One is access, one is privacy. Very different things. Why conflate them.


This is very essentialist, and I'll only point out that, prior to the Renaissance, you could say very similar things about European cultures.

In short, history explains, it doesn't justify. And this can be explained even better by a closed oligarchy wanting to stay in power.

Edited to add: Modern Western countries have had experiences with autocracy as well. Do you think there's some deep cultural reason Germany went Nazi which sets it apart from France or the UK? How about Spain and Portugal?


This is very essentialist, and I'll only point out that, prior to the Renaissance, you could say very similar things about European cultures.

Thank you for showing me a new word: essentialism. It sounds philosophical, which is a kind start... to then calling the bs.


Do you think it's changing? Are young adults in China as accepting of government controls as their great-grandparents were?


Anecdotal, but I have a friend who grew up in China but spent most of his adult life in the US. He's well traveled and his family is wealthy. I thought his time in the US might change his views on the (IMO) oppressive Chinese government, but it has not. He is 100% willing to forgo freedom for ease of life. He prefers the Chinese culture because being a good citizen is almost enforced. I've tried to explain the negatives, but he doesn't seem concerned about anything I brought up.


> While most Westerners see actions like this as serious violations of individual rights

Really? We do. Everyone here seemed okay with censorship on twitter, facebook, etc.

> It is an explanation of why the Chinese public may be more willing to accept strict government controls than the West.

Where in the "west" are you? We have censorship and controls in the US. And last I checked, europe is even worse with their controls.

> It's important for Westerners to realize that the Chinese never had a Locke, or a Rousseau, or a Hobbes.

Britain did and britain is at the forefront of censorship, control and monitoring of its population.

> The foundational political philosophy taken for granted in the West has no parallel in China.

It's empty words we used to pretend we are "superior".


That's why they don't have nice things.


China didn't invent communism but somehow they were able to adapt it to their society.


Would love to know who I offended this time.


I know you didn't intend your comment this way, but I see it as a bit patronizing to assume that just because China hasn't produced a Rousseau or a Hobbes domestically[1], that they couldn't possibly take new ideas from them.

Asia is about a lot more than social harmony and the mandate of heaven. There is an incredible diversity of opinion on almost any subject there, just as in the West.

[1] Citation needed.


Yes, but what is being said is that Rousseau and Hobbes and Locke are ingrained in Western culture in much the same way that Confucianism is ingrained in Chinese culture. Lapses in the absolute power of Western monarchy opened up a space for an Enlightenment and gave rise to those new ideals, not to mention the prior blows that this style of governance had suffered in the West -- the Magna Carta, more frequent war, rapid losses in colonial territories, and the growth of Catholicism. The collapse of Western monarchy was what brought on the Enlightenment, which then served as a catalyst for further destruction of that system. China didn't experience hundreds of years of rebellion against the government, and for a long time it wasn't openly trading new ideas with the West (whereas the European countries were tied closely together in a lot of political matters). For the most part, the Chinese approach to this power structure was also much, much more defined. Keep in mind that Europe was largely still connected to Greco-Roman history, and these basic cultural foundations called for democracy and republicanism rather than an absolute social harmony.

In the context of today, it's important to remember who the teachers and adults in China are: people who grew up under the Communist government. And with more respect towards the older generation, historically China has had a hard time rebelling against social norms ingrained in their culture. Trying to do away with Confucianism isn't a question of how many people are involved when the elders were all indoctrinated in those ideas by a Communist regime. Even if half the young population of China had independently stumbled upon papers describing these Western cultural values, spreading the idea is impossible when it goes against the CPC's core values, defies the ideas of the older generation, and is completely foreign from what was taught in school.

The fundamental difference between the West and China here is that China has always been under a strong, conservative leadership that these ideas have not been able to permeate. To think that China could simply pick up ideas from Western philosophy misses the point.


In that framework how do you explain the cultural revolution, and the inversion of power that resulted from that?

Younger red guards denouncing their elders, the attempt to get rid of the four 'olds' doesn't seem like a particularly conservative or Confucian agenda to me.

If it were impossible for this kind of thought to take root in China, I doubt that this movement could have gotten off the ground.

The right time to judge whether the Chinese people really value social harmony more than the west does is when economic growth stalls or even reverses for a decade or so.


Thank you, very well said.


Well they could take new ideas from them, but it's much easier said than done. The philosophical, historical and cultural framework that allowed the thought of Rousseau and Hobbes to spread in the West does not exist in China.

Interestingly this also partly explains why totalitarian Communism spread easily in China... Chinese culture was conducive to that philosophy.


This event is an amazing lesson in what China's rulers see as their interests and how they pursue those interests.

Over the last several decades, these rulers have done a lot to open China to the world and lift the totalitarian restrictions of Maoism.

This process has been the greatest poverty reduction program of all time, and thus it would be easy to mistake it for altruism, or at least a belief in governing in the common interest.

This theory, however, fails to explain much of the Chinese leadership's behavior, and I submit that self-interest is a superior theory.

The wealthier and stronger China becomes, the wealthier and stronger its rulers become. Thus it is generally in the rulers' interest to make China wealthier and stronger.

But if something would make China wealthier and stronger, but could loosen the ruling clique's grip on that wealth and strength, then it is against the rulers' interest and they will act to prevent it.

This is why China often acts as though it values technological leadership, but continually takes measures such as these, which undermine that leadership.

The result, as several in this thread have pointed out, is that China will not soon be the world's leader in cutting-edge technology.

But China will still be rich. And China will still be strong. And China's rulers will still be in power.


China is still in the range of development where it's pretty easy to make the case that raising the wealth of its people aligns with increasing the power and wealth of its rulers. An interesting question is how long those interests stay merged.

I suspect it isn't ultimately driven from a political power calculation, but on what areas of open growth are available. Cutting off WhatsApp keeps open growth available in that area internal to the nation. But as areas close off and get filled, economies have to start making harder choices about where to put effort. It's easy to commit to long-term society wide efforts when it's easy to forsee improvements _and_ personal profits. But as choices get harder to forecast and make good on, will China start looking shorter term and with a more narrowly focused self service scope as many western economic leaders have done.


And China's rulers will still be in power.

I wonder. When the inevitable downturn comes the population won't have the option of voting out the current government. They may well turn to other means.


This almost always happens. Because in order to achieve what they have achieved, they had to give their citizens a certain amount of freedom.

Generally when the new generation becomes old enough , it would have never seen why people are afraid of the rulers so much, then it becomes a situation of a showdown.

Though it doesn't always have to end with a bloody outcome, for instance Spain went from dictatorship to democracy quite peacefully after it's dictator died in 1975.


It's not just censorship, China is now openly engaged in economic warfare of foreign companies within China, closing up the Chinese economy, and preventing foreign companies from competing fairly.

"The Chinese government is blocking South Korean companies from leaving China while prohibiting assets from being taken out of China without any standards. In addition, Lotte and other large South Korean corporations are also having difficulty in their withdrawal process as the Chinese government demands huge compensation from South Korean companies restructuring their human resources management structures...

South Korean manufacturers have been not allowed to bring production facilities back to South Korea. The Chinese government has banned South Korean manufacturers from transporting simple production machines to South Korea from China while designating them as "equipment that adversely affects the Chinese economy."

http://www.businesskorea.co.kr/english/news/national/19352-e...


This is getting really strict.

I went to China around 2012:

* Facebook was already blocked

* Google and wikipedia magically stopped working when you searched for "tiananmen"

* Gmail worked fine

I returned in early 2017, oh god what a change:

* Don't even think about Facebook

* Ironically Facebook messenger worked until my session expired

* No gmail, google at all (don't remember about Wikipedia)

* Whatsapp worked fine

And now it is even getting worse....


I'm curious, what is the difference between "Facebook was already blocked" and "Don't even think about Facebook", other than 5 years?


There is no real difference, I kinda wanted to stress that no site ever gets unblocked (AFAIK).


CNN was blocked in 2002 (Tiananmen square was still fresh in people's minds) and isn't blocked today (CNN is a shadow of its former self, not very threatening). Ironically, because CNN was blocked, I started reading New York Times, which today IS blocked.


VPNs probably. They've started to crack down on those lately, too.

Also, a random tweet I saw today apparently with a recording of China's CCTV surveillance system:

https://twitter.com/0XDEDBEEF/status/912026226658652160

No wonder China wants to be #1 in "artificial intelligence". Surveillance and censorship are likely the primary motivators for that.


"One of the prominent Chinese VCs, Neil Shen from Sequoia China, was on the Economist's podcast recently talking about AI in China. When the host asked Shen about the Chinese state's use of AI in monitoring the citizens of China, Shen clammed up. It is an amazing bit of audio (starts around minute 8.)

https://www.acast.com/theeconomistasks/theeconomistasks-howd... "

https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=15017622


Given the political environment he faces at home, it was nearly a bit unfair to put him on the spot like that. The silence speaks volumes, though. Most meaningful silence I've heard (?) in a while.


Wow. This was fascinating, and terrifying both. Thank you for that link. To anyone else, I recommend listening to the whole 16 minutes actually - makes Mr. Shen's silence that much more stark.


Wow. That is some Person of Interest-level business right there.


At what level does china block internet access? Technology wise? It sounds impressive to be honest (in a scary way).

I wonder if the US has similar tech that is ready to be deployed at will.


I can't read chinese: What kind of data do they have there?


labels on moving objects: vehicle, adult, child, bike, T-shirt, etc.


Google didn't work for me at all in 2011. The VPN I used worked, but then stopped after 2015 ish. I now use free roaming on e.g. t mobile / Google fi / etc which gets around all blocks.


L2TP tunneling works when you use an ip address for the vpn server.


Hmm maybe that'll be worth getting a static IP at home for my next trip, thanks.


It occasionally would drop, but I could simply reconnect.


Why's that? Are you using some commercial VPN service where they're blocking the DNS?


How well does Android work in general if all google services are blocked? I know Android doesn't technically require google, but a lot of the features & stuff are entangled, like backup & restore, contact sync, etc.


You cannot reach the Play Store at all. And your phone always complains about "limited network access", because it cannot ping the google predefined URL.


Barely.... Chinese android phones install a homegrown version of the play store as almost the entire gplay services framework doesn't work.


That's easy. China has a lot of third-party stores, including stores of pirated apps. Some phones even come built-in with some of those stores.

As for sync, the Chinese companies selling there have their own cloud services and whatnot. This isn't an issue at all.


Speculation: the #1 mobile OS in the #1 mobile market works fine, having been tuned by the people who made it for just that reason.


It seems strict but maybe it's sensible from a security standpoint. Why should a foreign country like China allow foreign owned mass-surveillance systems like Google and Facebook spy on their citizens?

I mean even countries in the EU are taking Facebook to court over unauthorised online tracking of citizens [1]. The only difference with China is they have the power to do something about it, which is skip the legislative overhead and get straight to the business of blocking access.

I disagree with censorship of this kind; However, I wonder how the US would like it if the shoe was on the other foot?

[1] https://www.darkreading.com/vulnerabilities---threats/spain-...


> I disagree with censorship of this kind; However, I wonder how the US would like it if the shoe was on the other foot?

Here's a list of websites blocked in China: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Websites_blocked_in_mainland_C...

They block Wikipedia. Hardly a mass-surveillance system. The Chinese government is neanderthal.


Kind of off-topic, but I wonder what the reasoning behind blocking some sites like Sony Japan was.


No one is forcing them to use Google or Facebook. I sure as hell wouldn't want the US blocking Baidu or whatever. Let me decide.


I don't get your argument really, nor am I trying to say I support what the Chinese government are doing.

Given what we now know about how these companies operate track and consolidate information about users and collaborate with the US Government [1] why would a rival super power trust these companies to operate within their borders?

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/PRISM_%28surveillance_program%...


Some WeChat groups relating to cryptocurrency are moving to Telegram. I wonder how that'll last.


I have a friend who's been in China for the last year. Been talking with him on Facebook Messenger the whole time...


>* Google and wikipedia magically stopped working when you searched for "tiananmen"

Hmm I find this hard to believe because the massacre is known as the June Fourth Incident. "tiananmen" is the location, and blocking that would seem a bit strange for people trying to find directions, etc.


It might be based more on the results that those sites return than the query itself. It is just a still existing square. But if you search "Tiananmen" in English, most results will definitely be the sort of thing China doesn't want it's citizens to look at.


It’s almost as if they block the massacre in multiple languages

Tiananmen Square is what the massacre is referred to as in the United States


If you search for Tiananmen in Google, the first result is 6/4. Most westerners associate Tiananmen with the event more than the place.

Now if you search for Taylor Swift's most recent album, TS 1989, well, that's kind of blocked also. Not sure why :)


Wow that's hilarious


I'd expect them to block "tiananmen", the search of those exact Latin characters.


You're looking for the wrong thing. Its the May 35th Incident now comrade ;p


Last year I went to China, wanted to show a web project I had in internet and it didnt work at all.

My hosting was working perfectly and not blocked at all since I could SSH there. Then I realized that I had some jquery loading from a Google CDN and of course the cdn was banned there. And of course CSS fonts from google and youtube videos didnt work either...

I learned 2 lessons.

1) dont rely on CDNs if you want to have global access. Host everything your self and check that your hosting or any of the mirrors can be accessed everywhere.

2) How long Google tentacles are (and we always keep forgetting)...


> dont rely on CDNs if you want to have global access

So don't rely on CDNs for their primary purpose?


Yes.


Seems like the "lessons" you learned was to blame others for what the Chinese government did.

- Google being blocked in China is out of their control regardless of their "tentacles". It's well know, try another CDN.

- As already mentioned, don't use a CDN for the purpose CDNs exist. Thats really baffling to me.

Sorry, this post wasn't so productive but I'm really confused by OP.


I reread my comment and I dont see any place where I blame others... Im just told my story, not blaming any body and mentioned how big is google, thats all anyway...


There are many other "official" jquery CDNs (well, there is a real official one by jquery powered by someone else, and there are Google/Microsoft/etc. ones which are listed on: http://jquery.com/download/). Just don't use the Google one and you're ok. If you're worried about future blocks, just keep monitoring (there are services that tell you if a domain is blocked in China or not), and switch your jquery CDN if one is blocked. Microsoft one is almost surely going to be OK (at least for a long time).


Yup, and this makes it even more problematic that Google is forcing us developers to use their services more and more on Android.

There are users in other countries, users in corporate intranets, users on Amazon Kindle devices, users on open source Android ROMs.

None of these will have access to the required Google services.

But we can’t make apps without them anymore.


Or just don’t worry about China.


It's kind of funny that people worry about users on Safari, and [here] you suggest "ignore 18% of the world's total population".


In fact, it makes more sense to develop an app for the Chinese market than to develop one for iOS based on pure userbase numbers (obviously, for many companies that only operate in the US, this doesn’t make sense, but if you’re, say, an open source project, it might)


If you want to access from china, it cannot get more speed without CDN. So give up china:)


well, it was my personal website and I wanted to show my own projects from there... I just forgot I was using CDNs from google since I wrote the site 6 years ago...


WeChat is the replacement for WhatsApp, fully compliant with Chinese censorship controls.

What's mildly disturbing is that many Chinese Americans, both American citizens and not, living in the US use WeChat. They use it because of their cultural and social ties with China. Chinese tourists as well have had increasingly better integration inside the US as well, which would only serve to spread the usage of WeChat to anyone who interacts with Chinese tourists. Tencent is slowly but surely gaining a foothold inside the United States as they roll out more features abroad that made it popular in China.

Are they suspect to these controls as well, despite not being within China? More importantly, whats the legal status of a Chinese corporation with the capability of invading its users privacy under Chinese law, if some users are neither not in China or not Chinese citizens?


Well, it's all perspective. What's greatly disturbing is that people in US giving all their data to corporations to mine and monetize... Everyone using gmail and this ends up with _my_ data (as a non-gmail user) being mined. US startups have also turned pretty much every website into a wormhole for tracking users/visitors.

Atleast, in china, there is none of this advertising BS.


I won't dispute this - the private sector is composed of people just as the government is, and their attachment of sensitive data to vulnerable identifying information is just as abhorrent and many times more dangerous than anything the federal government could ever do.

In my mind, the novel problem here is that the Chinese government can use such information in order to socially police people that nominally aren't under their control. Google in Europe or America has no desire other than to collect info for commercial purposes, and there is no inherent desire to turn over private information to any government.

WeChat in America constitutes a potential extension of Chinese governmental control onto American citizens. This can be something as innocuous and reasonable as the denial of visas due to certain communications, or something worse. American citizens may get their Chinese friends and relatives in trouble for something they say. A few cases of these, and suddenly half the American WeChat user base knows they have to watch what they say unless they don't care about people they know. Moving out of the platform is not an option due to network effects.

China has long maintained that foreign tech services offer an opportunity for foreign countries to subvert their information controls, and has banned thousands of domains and companies under the guise of protection from foreign influence, commercial or gubernatorial. What's to say that China won't turn around and do the same thing to other countries?

To your point about no advertising BS in China, well you'd be right if it were 20 years ago. Unfortunately, advertising has become a booming industry in China. Take a walk in most significant Chinese cities, and you'll find the constant bombardment of information to be more garish than any American counterpart. The Chinese Internet is no different.


You've heard of this enemy of the state called "Snowden", right? 5 eyes? The US coalition dropping helpline missiles based on cellphone meta data (obtained from private corporations)?

Or simply border control agents asking for social media credentials, partly based on knowing you have an account?

I'm not saying I would enjoy being spied on by the Chinese government in particular... But it's not as if the "Western Internet" is free.

Finally, I think it is rather naive to think that the controlling interests behind global corporations are somehow so much more benevolent and disinterested in maintaining power, than governments are.


I won't comment on Snowden since there are significant efforts to continue his cause, and his whistleblowing is one part of a backlash against the overreach of US government surveillance.

The cellphone meta data issue is complicated by the fact that the telecommunications infrastructure of the US is not private and only recently regulated. New industries with antiquated interpretations of law are bound to be abused by those anxious to expand their power, but I trust that the American civic process will overturn such abuses of power within a reasonable time frame. Rome was not built within a day.

Border controls are also a separate issue - it is our current understanding that the federal government has both the power and mandate to exercise significant controls at the border, and several rights outlined within the Constitution are not exercisable at border crossings. Furthermore, American citizens can never be denied entry, only delayed, so citizens can always deny information requests. Stupid usages of our interpretation of the Constitution, such as asking for access to social media accounts or electronic devices, are technically legal. But social media information have no expectation of privacy, and again access to accounts and devices can always be denied. Recent efforts by advocacy groups are also seeking to overturn this overreach of power by some foolish officials within the CBP. Another case of the law not catching up with technology.

To the point of global corporations, I'm not saying that they are benevolent or disinterested in maintaining power. Nor am I suggesting that American companies do not turn over information to the government, or misuse the information they collect. But they are private bodies. Just as citizens can perform crimes and ethically bankrupt actions, so can companies. But they don't adhere to an overarching ideology, nor do they claim to represent the will of a people. Google mucking around in America and Europe alike may be tolerated, or punished. Tencent and WeChat is different because of their entanglement with the Chinese government, and should be treated differently.

Overall, if America begins to halt Chinese influence on American citizens, and China continues to do so for its own citizens, there is at least some degree of "protection" of individual rights. This would be the foundation for protection of individual rights between any government and any individual.


> But social media information have no expectation of privacy, and again access to accounts and devices can always be denied.

So fb messenger has no expectation of privacy, but wechat does?


The only users of WeChat have strong ties to China, and use it for those ties (e.g. WePay). Even in HK and Taiwan, WeChat is not used outside of those reasons.

WeChat working in the US is like UnionPay working in the US. Ya, its great if you are a Chinese tourist or an expat with a Chinese bank account, but it is irrelevant if you aren't, UnionPay isn't going to start taking over the American ATM card market.


My anecdotal experience contradicts yours (unfortunately I don’t think there is data available to us to help prove anything). In San Francisco many first, second, and third generation Chinese people extensively use wechat due to network effects, familiarity, stickers etc.


My list said Wechat isn't used unless it is for something mainland china related. The same is true in Hong Kong and Taiwan.


> Even in HK and Taiwan, WeChat is not used outside of those reasons.

Before someone asks, the approximate equivalent of WeChat in Taiwan is Line. Don't know what it is in HK.


Even that isn't really accurate. Wechat is an app ecosystem, it is as much like Google Play as it is like WhatsApp. Also, Facebook and google services remain popular in greater china outside of the mainland.


The equivalent of WeChat in HK is WhatsApp.


Lot of people in HK use Wechat (I have lived in HK). I wouldn't say it's so clear cut. LINE is also popular. But definitely Wechat is substantial especially since there's a lot of people from mainland and also if you got friends in Shenzen, you will use Wechat. I have seen many HK locals (born in HK, not immigrants from mainland) using Wechat.


Why would WeChat treat a foreigner any different than a Chinese citizen? Do US companies not turn over foreigner's data stored in US servers to US authorities if they receive a warrant?


If the US were smart, they'd ban WeChat. An eye for an eye, eh?


I visited China for a month and my view is limited, but i do not think the average Chen in China cares about this, just like the average John in America doesn't. They are happy to be able to grow their personal GDP as much as they can. A lot of people there are part of the waves of the population that are provided incentives to relocate from rural areas to urban areas. Censorship is their least concern. They are happy to be able to have access to new products and start businesses and help their kids develop as best they can. Throughout my travels in other countries in Asia, i met a few students which will be going to Chinese universities. One of their reasons was that Chinese universities have bigger budgets for research compared to their respective countries. So that was highly attractive to them in their educational development. From walking around i got the impression that China inflates their GDP by constant construction and tear down and construction again. I am inclined to believe that this happens also in the tech industry. This churn creates jobs, companies in a loop and makes the economy look stronger that it actually is. I also saw many empty apartments and was told about this as well. Imagine how much money China would loose if people would solely use western alternatives of the apps they currently use. This GDP churn they have going there could not be done if your population is using solely western products. I do think there is an economic reason as well. I happen to like WeChat, you can do many things with it. I watched this dude i met there buy a hat from a street vendor and payed her with the app, super easy. The convenience that is baked in that app is awesome. I wish we had something like that in the US.


I lived in China for many years and you are right. Most Chinese people reaction will be "Meh.." and they will move on with their life and just use a VPN if they really really need WhatsApp.

A lot of western people are now probably frantic to get the WeChat addresses of the Chinese people they only had on WhatsApp, so they can ensure their production line or development people are on track.

We need them more than they need us. That is the problem.


I lived in China for 9 years and could never find a working VPN that would last more than a month. So I just didn't bother using anything outside of work. It was ironic that I worked for Microsoft, would use Bing at home, and used Google at work because...I could.

> We need them more than they need us. That is the problem.

Disagree. They still want our business, they will find ways to make it through the disruption. China is not ready to close itself from the rest of the world economically.


Did you ever use Shadowsocks in lieu of a VPN? AFAIK, it suffers no traffic disruption (worked great for me when I connected to either my own US-based house or an AWS server in Japan)


> We need them more than they need us. That is the problem.

Actually the problem is that the west has no higher moral ground than the east. Not a single US person here uses a chinese app or plans to use one. There is a reason for this.


There is no moral high ground period. People who talk about moral high ground are usually just insecure and/or looking to save face.

US people don't use Chinese apps because they are not competitive and solve problems that are China-specific. Heck, its just not US people, but Taiwan people, Hong Kong people, Singapore people, Japanese people, Korean people, Myanmar people, Cambodia people, etc...

There is a reason for this.


I don't get how China can have WTO "Market Economy" status. It's not just blocking western internet companies, also forced joint ventures and technology transfers don't sound much like "Market Economy" to me.... :-/


Developing nations get a lot of leeway - see India's FDI restrictions, etc.


TechAltar made a video few days ago about censorship in China and what their goals are [0]. He also talked about lengths to which Mark Zuckerberg went to try to get Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp unblocked in China. It was quite shocking.

[0]: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=swuir_7YIPs


The 5 points according to the video:

1) Married Priscilla Chan

2) Learned Mandarin

3) Joined Tsinghua University

4) Befriended Xijinping

5) Offered to let Xijinping name firstborn

Personally I have trouble believing 1 and 5 were to get Facebook products into China unabridged. 5 sounds like a joke at a dinner party.


#5 is really low. I cannot believe someone who did that is a great person.

This guy's baby is just another tool huh?


The story goes Zuckerberg asked President Xi to give his unborn baby an Honorary Chinese name.

Which still seems gross, but perhaps less so, given the baby would likely have a more common American name.


Even it's the "backup" name, it's not like his wife or his wife's parents are incapable of coming up with a meaningful Chinese name for the child. It's his choice to go ask the president of China to choose it for him (and his wife - if she is like "I am not interested in choosing a Chinese name my child"?).

I can understand this on a personal level. Yeah, I'd understand, If, say, Obama was my friend, I'd want to "ask" the ideas of his for my child's English name, when he comes to my family dinner, sure...

But asking the Chairman of China publicly in a dinner just shows he does care a lot about who has power. Not a friend, not a great thinker, but a fucking president he has a chance to have dinner with the first time. And publicly with many other people. If I'm being cynical, then at least doing it his way was really quite distasteful.


I'm sure Zuck just meant to pick the Chinese name, not the official English name. My half-Chinese son still doesn't have one, my wife having rejected my proposal of 小囧.

Even then, I think this is just Zuck being Zuck, he is a bit socially awkward and was probably unfiltered genuine here for no business reason.


Apparently he asked him for a Chinese name for the child, so it's more of an honorary thing than anything. The child would have a non-Chinese 'regular' name (Max in this case), and the traditional Chinese name could be sourced from him.

People phrasing it in a scandalous-sounding 'omg he asked him to name his firstborn' way are reading into it too much.


I think we have our script outline for The Social Network 2.0


if 5 were true (though i doubt it) it would make for a pretty sad conversation between Mr. Zuckerberg and their firstborn some day. i mean, c'mon. have some class. it's a move worthy of our current president.


>if 5 were true

Sadly, it's true:

>At a White House dinner in 2015, Mr. Zuckerberg had even asked the Chinese president, Xi Jinping, whether Mr. Xi might offer a Chinese name for his soon-to-be-born first child — usually a privilege reserved for older relatives, or sometimes a fortune teller. Mr. Xi declined, according to a person briefed on the matter.

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/09/17/technology/facebook-gover...


ok. that's interesting. i guess it's fair to question Mr. Zuckerberg's motives.

i say that because i think very very few people in the US would, given the chance, ask the leader of a foreign ancestral nation to name their firstborn child. a grandparent or a close personal friend, yes, plausibly -- but a political leader you don't even know?

but, maybe there's some sort of qualifying condition here. maybe what they meant was the child's "Chinese name" which would be distinct from the child's name for day to day and legal use?


there is an extra but critical reason that I somewhat know why the censorship is getting tougher these days, it has something to do with https://twitter.com/kwokmiles

this guy is nowadays' Don Quixote, one person against a powerful government and really made a crack there, this battle has been on for 8 months and it gets more and more interesting as he is challenging the most powerful group of men in China with corruption evidence gathered over the years,each case is weighted more than 100 billion dollars wealth.

to give you two incidents over the last 8 months: 1. VOA(voice of america) live interview with him was stopped in the middle as the leaked info is too strong. 2. youtube was DDOS-ed-to-death for a while when he started live streaming two months ago, which is said never happened before.


I would say WhatsApp could use domain fronting like Signal, but that technique requires the adversarial government or ISP to decide that blocking Google.com—or whatever large, important domain is doing the fronting—is worth the cost to block WhatsApp. But China definitely doesn't care about blocking Google!

https://www.bamsoftware.com/papers/fronting/


Over the past several months, I have had increasing difficulty communicating with suppliers and business partners in China, who have become very frustrated that they can only communicate via Skype. All of their VPNs seem to have been shut down. They can't access Facebook, YouTube, and now WhatsApp.

Does anyone know of a simple workaround that would allow someone inside of mainland China to regain access to what's been blocked recently?


Not sure if this would work for you but still... After having a lot of problems communicating with my business partners in China, I bought a second (cheap, chinese!) phone and installed WeChat, Weibo and a host of other apps on it. It became my chinese "channel", completely isolated from my main phone. Working pretty well so far.


interesting.

we live in an age where we should ask: what did Microsoft have to give China's leadership to make Skype so much more attractive to Chinese users?

what influence/control within the US can Microsoft offer up to other governments if the price is right?


This feels to me like the war on the Internet has entered a new phase.


Next step should be enabling censored services to citizens with 4-star+ social scores.


No I expect it to be more like only the rich will be able to afford the data rate fees that will apply to any Inter-Zone communications.


reminds me of the 1st episode of the latest Black Mirror season.


It's like a really ugly combination of that episode and the waldo episode


I think I made a prediction earlier on HN about balkanization of the Internet - I give it till 2025 until all major countries are in a process of complete segregation.


We (the US) have to start treating the blocking of our internet applications as trade embargoes. They are the future of our economy.


China does not officially list the websites it blocks for this reason: they don't want to turn it into a WTO case. If you ask China telecom why Facebook isn't working, they'll say...must be Facebook's fault.

Anyways, the US probably doesn't care that much as we probably make more on trade with China (even American retail marks up China-sourced cheap items), that we don't find it worth rocking the boat over this. Also, by keeping out international services, Chinese services never face competition to become worldwide competitive, meaning they are basically leaving the rest of the world to established mainly-USA players.


I'm curious if this is really censorship or just a play to further enhance the position of Chinese messaging apps' monopolies.

Question is why wouldn't the US block Chinese sites, apps and services like WeChat, Alibaba, Baidu, etc?


Cross-border chats that previously used WhatsApp will now be forced to switch to WeChat, and thus be subject to Chinese gov't monitoring. Also leading to more international installs of WeChat.

If US blocked those sites, nobody would care, except those with ties to China. However, it would be easy to circumvent with VPNs etc., unless of course the US duplicated the GFW.

At any rate, that's rather antithetical to US values.


I interact daily with colleagues from China, and I think it's a lot more problematic to have work resources blocked than WhatsApp.

They cannot even do a simple search with Google. It's frustrating for me, I can only imaging how is for them. I'm even worried to raise the issue to not jeopardize their jobs.

Really sad.


It makes sense, as a country you wouldn’t want US companies taking over your social media. It’s only alarming from a US centric view.


> It makes sense, as a country you wouldn’t want US companies taking over your social media.

Not having to build your own Facebook (and WhatsApp, etc.) means that you can build something else that can (eventually) compete internationally.

China isn't being irrational here, but there is a tradeoff between growth and security.


should every country block every other country?


The statement doesn't seem imperative as much as it's just generally relatable. In the end, it comes down to the values and limits of each society as to how they approach and react to something like Facebook and Google's massive influencing powers.


I hope this is a joke


Well it's very valid reason. Companies like Google and Facebook do influence their users, and do define how they interact.

So banning the big tech companies is kind of protection against this, as US influence can be really toxic for local businesses. Even the EU starts to fight back against them.


He's got a point though.


Countries may not want it exactly but most will go nowhere near blocking it. Or else every country but the USA would be blocking Facebook.


Protectionism for all.


Naomi Wu's comment on China's surveillance: "That's basically the social contract. Someone grabs your purse, you go to the police station, they show you the video, usually catch them. ... Honestly, I hear more anger on Weibo/Wechat when there's not camera footage of a crime than any unhappiness over cameras on the street etc."[1]

[1] https://twitter.com/realsexycyborg?lang=en


I have several friends who have said that they feel more safe walking around alone at night due to the cameras, when compared to major north american cities.


I was in Singapore for a while and the fact that cameras were everywhere in SG made me feel really uncomfortable and hard to breathe, at least. I guess you get used to what you think is normal.

There is no right answer to that. I'd prefer to go to a place that has no camera, and go to a party/event that no one is fucking around with their phone cameras, but I guess I'm just old.


the UK does tons of video surveillance of public spaces. much much more than the US, where cameras are often low-res garbage, broken or hacked for use in botnets.


In the UK, if you're robbed can you go to a police station, see the video, and get the cops started on finding the robber?


i don't know about that.

i do know that some UK police departments have officers watching some public spaces in real time. they can sometimes recognize and intercept known offenders before a crime occurs.

https://www.theguardian.com/uk/2008/may/06/ukcrime1


Lot of posts about the economic effects of this. From my armchair this looks to be political more than economic. China wants to be in control of how their citizens communicate.

They don't trust Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg or any of the US government. Letting their citizens chat on an encrypted channel made by a foreign "superpower" seems disingenuous.

It's not as if Americans are going to boycott Chinese goods, so I don't see any direct loss for China here.


Too much concern about if China can innovate and create Western alternatives. I don't think it's about that at all. It's about privacy and the freedom to choose.

That Chinese people cannot choose what they use and how they can live their lives online what is private and what isn't is the biggest issue with the WhatsApp move along with other services.

It would be sad to be Chinese living in China as the government takes choices away from me and my people.


I'm in a relocation in China for the past 2.5 years, and it was obvious this is coming since they released end to end encryption back in 2016. China is not a democracy, surveillance is one of the most important issues in China (see link), and allowing their citizen to talk outside of their reach of surveillance is unacceptable. Wechat - the so-called Whatsapp + Facebook all-in-one app (Wechat can be the only app on your phone) is a 1) fantastic app and extremely innovative, Many things to learn from it in the west. 2) perfectly demonstrates how the Chinese government pushes for centralization, for the sake of government supervision. (have all the users in just one place, talking to their friends, ordering food, flights, trains, paying for everything, ordering things online etc.

*https://twitter.com/0XDEDBEEF/status/912026226658652160


Why can't steganography be used on top on the Chinese government endorsed app (WeChat)?

It wouldn't have to use images, it could use any data in the system or even spread it amount mutilple apps within WeChat.

By the way, a couple suggestions if you haven't used WeChat:

1) There is a really nice, canonical one pager out there for explaining WeChat to Americans, I highly recommended it.

2) Its important to note that WeChat despite its name, is miles away from being a simple chat app. It's an entire platform, almost OS like, complete with its own apps within an app. Their platform is incredibly rich, to the point that any significant business has some services available or at least a presence.

Before going to China on business I hadn't heard much about it, and only knew it existed because of some Chinese friends. However if you are planning a trip to China, go ahead an install it now because it's ubiquitous.

There is an English version and last time I checked it was reasonably up to date, although seemed to be missing a few features.


Big news. Which one are safe now (in US and China)? Telegram??

I remember back in the days, when you wrote "fuck" in Skype from China and it would get censored. Which one is a trusted messenger these days?


Signal. Maybe Wire.


"The blocking of WhatsApp text messages suggests that China’s censors may have developed specialized software to interfere with such messages"

They don't need any 'specialized software'. You can just block the list of hostnames and IP address, found here: https://github.com/ukanth/afwall/wiki/HOWTO-blocking-WhatsAp...


I'm seriously wondering why we open up our markets to China, if they won't ever allow our companies to thrive there.

They shouldn't be allowed to take over companies too.


Many of our companies do thrive in china, and the rich people in the USA make lots of money off the arrangement. Don't think for a second that the relationship is one sided.

Still, china could be a bit more fair and symmetrical in our trading relationship.


Perhaps you are not aware of how hard it is to get your money out of China.

And others end in 'partnerships'


Having done it myself many times, I'm totally aware. Thankfully, as a foreigner or foreign company, I only need to present tax receipts. Still a PITA, but there are no hard limits at least.


Haven't ever done it, but at least I see it's a PITA. As I thought :p


I had a long layover in Shanghai recently and was a bit surprised that so many of the web sites I use regularly were blocked.

It seems all google products were blocked including gmail and google voice which are my primary means of communication.

Are there many Android users in China?


Why does the US allow China to block so many American technologies? To me this is almost akin to banning the import of American cars, or any other domestic export.

The United States has such a huge trade deficit with China, you would think the government would fight for whatever little "export" they can get, whether it be a technological export or otherwise.


This is just wealth destruction. Government intervention will create an artificial higher demand for those services. Maybe the same developers would be building something else that THEY would believe would be about more interesting or profitable.

So chinese will miss those OTHER OPPORTUNITIES to innovate (even if still innovates, it could be "even better"), or other opportunities to "copy cat" other services. The question is: who should decide whats done and whats not done? The consumer or the government?

Read Bastiat. It's easy and obvious to point at something that's being built by government or (indirectly) by the government intervention. The hard part, that needs some economics stretching, is to wonder about the invisible, non-existing projects that actually are never felt missed.


I have no privileged state secret information to disclose. But a former employee of mine (and Orbital Sciences, NSA before that) was in Queen Noor Of Jordan's entourage. WhatsApp was one of the dominant messaging apps in the Arab Spring aftermath. I suspect the miraculous purchase price might reflect that. I could be wrong. Boy genius working class hero miracle narratives should be discounted however possible for better business lesson learning. WhatsApp is a rounding error in China and likely a genuine military or trade secrets security threat. Our proclamations of self-identity as guardians of democracy are as important to us as our own enforcement and good example. Focus on what and who matters where.


It’s like China and England are competing to see who can have the least amount of Internet freedom.


oh, but England "had Locke,... or a Hobbes" (see comment above)


I wonder if steganography + encryption will be the way past internet censorship.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Steganography#Digital_messages


Does OpenVPN still work, in normal or PSK mode? I wonder if at some point their filtering gets smart enough that they will just turn it over to a whitelist, or worse, straying too far from the "norm user" gets you a visit from police.


Regular openvpn sees disruptions. They sniff out the ip addresses that sees vpn traffic and blocks them. You can get a different ip and have it run (or do multi-encapsulated tunneling), but in my opinion, nothing about this issue is technological. At the very end, if you try to evade too many times, the government just tells the telco not to sell any internet access to you. Or get the police to show up at your residence.

Regular Chinese citizens get jailed for 50+ years all the time for doing things online. If you are foreign, they can revoke your visa.


If you are foreign, in a first tier city, just pay for the corporate internet (the unblocked version) in a lot of office districts.

The government knows that the expats aren't their customer for censorship, they just want to make it inconvenient enough for their citizens to get to the new york times or the scmp.

Have people actually gotten visa's revoked, that would be a crazy escalation by the MPS.


Even if OpenVPN doesn't work, ssh tunneling could get you onto the free internet. I imagine that using Tor would certainly get you into trouble in China. There was a statement in a documentary from an ex Syrian Intelligence Officer that they found out and tortured people who used Tor or other encryption methods. Anonymity in the Internet at the age of surveillance states is really tricky. One slip-up and your identiy might get comprimised.


I was in China recently and my ssh tunnel got blocked to near zero bandwith after some time. The way to go is a good VPN subscription or shadowsocks on your own server.


OpenVPN doesn't work unless you do some crazy tunneling over encrypted bank traffic ports (OVPN over SSL on 443)


China has been going on a ban spree lately. First, they turn the Bitcoin and cryptocurrency world on its head banning Bitcoin and other restrictions and now WhatsApp is being banned. What is banned next?


Chinese debt is a ticking time bomb. http://www.businessinsider.com/chinese-debt-risk-to-financia...

When (not if) it goes off, it'll not only be a huge shock to the world economy, it'll most likely also result in huge unrest inside China. The only political tool the communist party has known is to suppress dissent. I expect things to get worse in the next few years... not better.


In fact, this is the government's conspiracy. Now WeChat a lot of data by the government control, always monitor people's remarks. Why to prohibit whatsup, because because of a broke the Chinese government to lead the corruption of the rich, Guo Wengui. The domestic intelligence provider used whatsup to provide him with information, so the government began to suppress whatsup。https://youtu.be/DWVxf2ARuOg


The most surprising thing to me is that WhatsApp was not already blocked in China. I'd just assumed it would have been, given so many other Western messaging apps are.


For what it's worth, the Matrix protocol (matrix.org) isn't blocked in China at all to our knowledge, meaning folks get both decentralised & e2e encrypted comms. Given the transport is just HTTPS and can hit any arbitrary server, it's relatively hard to fingerprint and block in the manner that WhatsApp has been.


The article mentions that, as in years before, the Chinese tighten censorship when important party meetings or other events of political significance come up. But does anyone know if the longer term trend is toward more isolation of the Chinese internet (or intranet, almost) or did the overall level of censorship stay constant over the last few years?


It's interesting that for so long there was conventional wisdom suggesting a large reason the Soviet Union economy failed due to inefficiencies of communism and oppression.

We now know not only did that not stop China, it's not clear that the ceiling of economic success of their system has been determined.


China has a market economy - more government controlled and regulated than the west - but it's not centrally planned economy like the Soviet Union. They tried that in the past - google Great Leap Forward to see how it ended up.


As long as China isn't breaking any WTO rules, they are free to block internet services and apps. If other countries aren't happy with this, they should change the WTO rules. If WTO rules are being broke, then clearly those rules have no teeth.

Why would China block things? Various excellent reasons are discussed in this thread, and they all boil down to political and commercial.

Are the Chinese people harmed? I would argue not. None of these "services" do anything really important nor irreplaceable. Most are just new spins on ancient tech like email and FTP, and the new versions that are blocked don't really have any differentiating features compared to what is available locally. The feature that is new is Digital Identity.

And so my final thought is that they are playing a long game with respect to digital identity - which is the long game of most of these blocked services. In Cyberspace, am I going to be Chinese or American? I aM not Chinese, but I expect that most Chinese will want to also be Chinese in Cyberspace, and so the Chinese government is fulfilling that desire.


The Chinese people are harmed if any end-to-end encrypted communications services are blocked to ensure the government is able to spy on them.


If you want secure communication then you have to use your own secure channel. That is true everywhere.


You do know that Wechat's chat history stored in Tencent's database in plain text? The authorisation could check/monitor any Chinese citizen who uses Wechat, if they say something bad about the government or spread the rumours of some officials corruptions, they will be in big trouble?!? How do you mean Chinese people are not harmed? Their privacy is absolutely harmed and they have less choices for chatting and that's what the Chinese government wants - they want everyone in China to use Wechat so they could absolutely control/monitor


Wechat claims they don't hold logs on disk:

http://help.wechat.com/cgi-bin/micromsg-bin/oshelpcenter?opc...


I wouldn't use WhatsApp or Wechat or any of these spyware apps.

The Chinese government isn't taking something away (privacy, freedom) because it was never granted. Therefore I say "no harm". If the people want these rights, they will have to reform their government.


Yeah, isolating yourself from the outside world will cause you to lose. See: North Korea.


I think in the long run we will see silo-driller middleware overcoming all these obsticles as service.

You specify which of your We-Chat friends shall get your facebook updates and the bridge middleware takes care.


This Tech Altar video is very relevant to the topic:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=swuir_7YIPs


Anything that harms FB directly or indirectly is a good thing.


Good move China. Now if the rest of the world could also block anything facebook so the spying would be contained to the US it would be great.


Thou-Shall-Not-Do-Business-With-Dictatorships!


Aside from the speculation about why, does anyone have any speculation about HOW this disruption is occurring?


From a search and social standpoint, when I was in China, only Bing and Wechat worked.

Instagram, etc. wouldn't refresh.


I'm currently on a buisness trip in china, had to switch to wire which is still working.


How does the blocking actually happen?

What if people used a decentralized service, that worked over https?


All traffic to/from some IP addresses is blocked, additionally all Chinese DNS servers respond with random A records when the domain name is banned, for example:

  $ host facebook.com 202.97.0.6
  facebook.com            A       8.7.198.45
  $ host facebook.com 202.97.0.6
  facebook.com            A       243.185.187.39
  $ host facebook.com 202.97.0.6
  facebook.com            A       243.185.187.39
  $ host facebook.com 202.97.0.6
  facebook.com            A       46.82.174.68
  $ host facebook.com 202.97.0.6
  facebook.com            A       59.24.3.173
(202.97.0.6 is an open resolver in China)


> additionally all Chinese DNS servers respond with random A records when the domain name is banned

Which DOS'd one of my server when the random IP they picked was mine. Grr.

Had to add a special rule to deal with it.


So you can get around the block if you use 8.8.8.8 for DNS?


No you can't, you will still get a connection reset error


>What if people used a decentralized service, that worked over https?

that sounds great until you realize that most people don't run tls servers on their computers/phones. so running one would immediately raise suspicion. not to mention that if they can block tor/vpn, they can block whatever tls chat service you have as well.


Why is running a webserver going to arouse suspicion?

Furthermore, with https authentication, non members wouldn't even know that a chat is going on.


Traffic analysis will tell you that something far from the norm is going on. You don't need to be able to read packets to recognize that the pattern is all wrong for an HTTPS website session. And it's not ordinary for a client machine or network to be listening for TLS sessions on port 443 in the first place.


in the beginning of September a chinese guy was arrested for selling VPN software. you can try ways to bypass the great firewall, but it is against the law to do that, and in China it is a good idea to follow the law.

http://thehackernews.com/2017/09/china-vpn-great-firewall.ht...


The mechanism of blocking is the Internet firewall with deep packet inspection and protocol sniffing, together with lots of human intervention and tracking.


VPNs stick out like a red flag in Wireshark. Instead of a variety of small packets going to ports 53, 80, 443, and the occasional 22 or 3389, coming from random 5-digit ports - all you see are big packets over port 500.


What if a common enough encrypted protocol is used to carry all communication, such as https TLS protocols?


It's not a technology problem. Be aware that human operators are hired specifically for correlating internet traffic with these kinds of evasions. In the end, unless it's a robot talking to another robot, all internet traffic in China can be resolved to people. And people can be arrested or jailed or killed.

Of course, if you want to "go tech" you can go underground, but being illegal has disadvantages in a state like china


As I see it, a large set of computers all running a webserver over TLS can form a cryptographic global consensus (blockchain) for permissionless chat and other stuff. Sure, someone has to be running these serveds. But once they are ubiquitous enough, the government wouldn't be able to stop the chats by arresting / remocing any percentage of machines short of 90% or so.

What kind of traffic correlations would then be taking place? That someone is making requests with one of these servers? It's always hard to arrest a meaningful number of users once the network itself is resilient, uses a common protocol that resists deep inspection, and has no major points of failure.


It’s not just about protocols it’s also about the pattern of the data: the sizes and timing and other statistical characteristics of your packets. Tunneled traffic looks very different from normal web browsing even if you can’t read the content.


I think peer discovery is still a difficult issue?


Hasn't it been solved with freenet, perfectdark, and other darknets and DHTs?


What are the downsides for 1) China and 2) chinese citizens from an objective PoV?


why not.. when they already have this : https://twitter.com/0XDEDBEEF/status/912026226658652160


coincidentally, I just bootstrapped my own Tor exit node in the USA... Hopefully Chinese and everyone else whose freedom of speech is usurped can still hook up to the Tor network.


What about Telegram?


Was blocked two years ago


The powerful will always get away with wrongdoings.


Is Viber working or is that on the kill list as well?


God, living in China sounds like absolute hell.


And Facebooks blocks free speech.

In the race to control what people say, think and see, between the governments and the mega corporations, it's the people who are losing.

China blocks whatsapp... meh.


USA should block Chinase chat apps too.


This had not already been blocked?


does this kind of thing violate any trade agreements between US and china? should it?


To my knowledge it does not, but it should.

Censorship is a weak attempt at mind control, which is a bit worse than chattel slavery on the list of heinous things that humans do to one another.

Not only that, but in order to implement it effectively, you must be omnipresent, with a finger in every ear and a hand over every mouth. The concentration of power necessary to do that is an open invitation to corruption.

If I had significant influence over US trade agreements, the degree to which ordinary citizens had open and unfettered access to information would factor into every last one of them.


What trade agreements :D


China is like a GIANT Jail :)


With really good food then.


Well done, China.


Yawn... Wechat already dominates and is generally better.

Watching them try to ban bitcoin (another US invention) is more interesting.



If that other link (yours, I see) actually had discussion, this might be a useful contribution to post here. But it doesn't.

Sorry mate, your submission didn't catch the fire of the kindling; no need to repost it here.


So brown nosing with comrade Jinping did not have a desired result. For those not aware: Zuck asked him to name his first born. Jinping declined. :-)


Interesting. Got a link that backs up this rather surreal claim?


> At a White House dinner in 2015, Mr. Zuckerberg had even asked the Chinese president, Xi Jinping, whether Mr. Xi might offer a Chinese name for his soon-to-be-born first child — usually a privilege reserved for older relatives, or sometimes a fortune teller. Mr. Xi declined, according to a person briefed on the matter.

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/09/17/technology/facebook-gover...



Even more interesting: why is it suddenly considered unacceptable to ask for confirmation of a truly strange report?


I suspect the down votes (which I assume you're alluding to) are more regarding the wording. "Got a link that backs up this rather surreal claim?" can read as very aggressive rather than as a genuine question for more information. Also, the second result in my DDG query for "zuckerberg child chinese name" is this link, with the title "Chinese president snubs Mark Zuckerberg’s request for baby name".

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/asia/china/1191066...

Variants of "citation needed", particularly those that appear aggressive and easily searchable can potentially attract downvotes, regardless of the actual intent on the part of the poster, one of the downsides of internet forums where the only channel of communication is the text itself, stripped of intonation and body language.


Good point, I apologize if my post came across as an aggressive or disbelieving response. That wasn't the intent. It's objectively surreal, to the extent that particular adverb can ever legitimately be used next to that particular adjective, for the founder of Facebook to ask the Chinese premier for input on his child's name.

Also, typically, asking for an "easily searchable" citation results in a snarky LMGTFY link, rather than moderation normally associated with posting goatse links on Slashdot. It's interesting that this particular question seems to have hit a lot of peoples' nerves on here.


[flagged]


Please don't post like this here.

https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html


Well, at least Mark didn't sacrifice his child for that.

What's the end game here? In the early 2000s it seemed like China was going to become this liberal democracy, but it just seems like the government is getting more and more power and control. Is there any sign this (and the rise of several authoritarians) is gonna stop?

This made me think of Fukuyama (1989):

What we may be witnessing is not just the end of the Cold War, or the passing of a particular period of post-war history, but the end of history as such: that is, the end point of mankind's ideological evolution and the universalization of Western liberal democracy as the final form of human government.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_End_of_History_and_the_Las...

That looks really funny in hindsight. He's actually changed his position:

http://www.npr.org/2017/04/04/522554630/francis-fukuyama-on-...


Small sample size, but I had a close friend in the 90's who came from China, got her masters and phd here, and still parrotted the Communist party line when talking about the Tibet or the Tianamen square massacre or Taiwan - in their view the US is worse in a lot of ways with native Americans, prisons and treatment of minorities. She and all of her peers (graduate degrees earned in the USA) also survived the Cultural Revolution and in spite of that none of them supported liberal democracy for China.


I don't think there's any sign it will stop. The standard prediction used to be that prosperity would bring democracy, but that's looking to be either wishful thinking or bad extrapolation from past events.


> The standard prediction used to be that prosperity would bring democracy

They're about 10-15 years into a widening low level prosperity. As recently as just ten years ago, their GDP per capita was still a mere $2,000 and they had ~750 million people living on less than $5 per day. It's a bit early to call it on how wider prosperity will impact their government system. The median income in China is still about 1/20th that of the US and 1/15th that of Germany or the UK. They haven't reached wide-spread prosperity in any regard yet (and by prosperity, I mean they're nowhere near even the second-tier prosperity level of a Czech or Portugal).


People tolerate the authoritarian government because of the rapid improvements in standard of living. Once living standards plateau we will see growing unrest and a gradual shift to a more open government (or a violent revolution).


It feels to me that stability brings prosperity, and democracy represents one of several paths to stability.


Democracy and prosperity are orthogonal concepts. I agree both of them are good but prosperity without democracy exist (China and in some sense Singapore) and democracy without prosperity also exists (everywhere).


> prosperity without democracy exist

There has never been a large nation example of that in world history. China has yet to get there in any broad sense. Further, there are exceptionally few examples of it, regardless of nation size. A solid 80% to 90% of the prosperous, well developed nations use representative government systems, and not a single large nation that is prosperous at the median doesn't. Most of the exceptions are smaller, resource nations like Qatar (even Saudi Arabia hasn't achieved high-level prosperity at the median, their median income is nearly 1/3 that of the US).

Here's the list of nations that are prosperous at the median -

Democratic: US, Canada, France, Germany, Britain, Ireland, Japan, Italy, Australia, New Zealand, Switzerland, Denmark, Iceland, Finland, Sweden, Norway, Belgium, Netherlands, Austria, Spain, Israel, South Korea

Not Democratic: Singapore, Qatar, Kuwait, Brunei, UAE

Questionable inclusions: Czech, Portugal, Taiwan, Slovenia, Greece, Estonia, Slovakia; vs Saudi Arabia on the other side

I don't see how this could be any more blatant.


Are you saying that before democracy appeared (300 or so years ago) humankind didn't prosper economically, financially and culturally ?


In the modern sense of the term, they did not. 300 years ago, almost everyone alive would be considered catastrophically poor by modern standards, and even the elites would be considered to have some serious gaps in their wealth.

This is relevant because one of the perennial questions of history has been "Why didn't high tech civilization arise centuries or millenia earlier?", and governance issues like this are at least one of the defensible answers. Though not the only one by any means.


The whole world is in a giant financial bubble.

These acts are desperate measures to control people because they know how bad things are going to get.

They need to be able to control the channels of communication to stamp out dissent.


> By blocking the heavily encrypted WhatsApp service while making less secure applications like WeChat available to the public, the Chinese government has herded its internet users toward methods of communication that it can reliably monitor.

How could they possibly monitor millions of messages sent per hour? Even if they have some ML / Bot, what are the odds that they'll miss some protest, or plot??


> Even if they have some ML / Bot, what are the odds that they'll miss some protest, or plot??

Do they need 100% accuracy for it to be effective? Nothing of this sort is, and that's accepted as part of using it. Of course people work to minimize false positives and false negatives, but it's understood that they can't be reduced to 0.




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