The Great Fire-Wall and China’s Social Media Giants

April 17, 2019

When you read that China’s government monitors and censors that country’s social media, you might think the Chinese Communist Party is dealing mostly with YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, Amazon, and Google. If that’s what you think, you would be mostly wrong.

China’s version of YouTube is YouKu Tudou that serves about 500-million users a month, half of YouTube’s reach. “YouTube says more than 1-billion unique visitors visit its site each month, but don’t forget, YouKu Tudou caters to a much smaller net of Chinese-speaking audiences only.”

However, few if any of YouTube’s billion visitors are in China since YouTube is banned/blocked in China along with popular websites such as Google, Gmail, and Facebook.  If you live in China and you want to use those sites, you have to find a way to bypass the internet blocking by the GFW by using a web proxy or VPN, but in spite of the ban, Alexa ranks YouTube as the 11th most visited website in China.

Twitter is also banned in China and if you have had your fill of the Twitter maniac in the U.S. White House, who can blame the CCP? Twitter’s equal in China is called Weibo.  Nearly 25-percent of China’s population uses Weibo, and they are free of Donald Trump’s Twitter trolling, endless lies, and rants. Recently Trump has been bullying and insulting John McCain, a man that’s been dead for months. With more than 1.4 billion people in China, that means Weibo has more than 354.6 million users.

“Weibo has evolved into an entertainment platform that encompasses the features of Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, reddit and YouTube rolled into one,” eMarketer forecasting analyst Shelleen Shum said.

China’s Google is Baidu. Once a popular search engine, most services offered by Google China were blocked by the Great Firewall in the People’s Republic of China. In 2010, searching via all Google search sites, including Google Mobile, were moved from mainland China to Hong Kong.  Baidu remains focused on the local Chinese market while Google is global and continues to expand. While Google has long been the market leader in search in most countries, when it exited China, it was the runner-up. It held roughly 30% of the sector, with domestic rival Baidu capturing most of the remainder.

China’s Facebook is Tencent with almost one billion users mostly in China.  According to CNN Business, “This Chinese tech giant could soon be worth more than Facebook. … But it isn’t just social networking that has gotten investors excited about Tencent. The company has been expanding deeper into other areas including smartphone games, mobile payments and streaming music. All that has helped fuel record profits this year.”

Alibaba is China’s Amazon and India, Australia, and Singapore are becoming key battlegrounds for Amazon and Alibaba, says, cbinsights.com. According to a February 2018 SEC filing, Alibaba had 617 million monthly mobile users and 552 million active users on its China retail marketplaces, and Forbes says, “For Brands, Alibaba is The Gateway to China and Chinese Customers. … Amazon’s market cap is about 70% larger than Alibaba’s yet China’s e-commerce market alone is going to be larger than the rest of the world… by 2020, Asia is projected to account for 66% of global e-commerce sales with China accounting for 58%.”

“Alibaba has a more dominant e-commerce business than Amazon … though Amazon claims about 40-50% of all online US retail sales, Alibaba claims about 80% of all online Chinese retail sales.”

Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine, Crazy is Normal, Running with the Enemy, and The Redemption of Don Juan Casanova.

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Judging China through a Chinese lens

April 10, 2019

I have often read or heard what others think of China and its government with them knowing little or nothing of China’s history, culture, or what China’s Constitution says. Too much of that criticism is often influenced by bias and/or ignorance.

In this post, I will focus on four articles from China’s Constitution and attempt to link what they say to Confucius. If you want to learn about the rest of China’s Constitution, click the link in this sentence.

Chapter II

Article 51: Citizens of the People’s Republic of China, in exercising their freedoms and rights, may not infringe upon the interests of the State, of society or of the collective, or upon the lawful freedoms and rights of other citizens.

Article 52: It is the duty of citizens of the People’s Republic of China to safeguard the unification of the country and the unity of all its nationalities.

Article 53: Citizens of the People’s Republic of China must abide by the Constitution and other laws, keep State secrets, protect public property, observe labour discipline and public order and respect social ethics.

Article 54: It is the duty of citizens of the People’s Republic of China to safeguard the security, honour and interests of the motherland; they must not commit acts detrimental to the security, honour and interests of the motherland.

If you clicked the link and read/study China’s Constitution, do not forget the four articles listed above. Through the lens of Articles 51 – 54, you might learn how to interpret the rest of the Constitution. It also helps if you understand the basics of Confucian ethics.

Confucius was a Chinese teacher, editor, politician, and philosopher of the Spring and Autumn period of Chinese history. The philosophy of Confucius, also known as Confucianism, emphasized personal and governmental morality, the correctness of social relationships, justice, and sincerity.

The Khan Academy says, “Towards the end of the Zhou Dynasty, as feudal lords fought over land, there was a scholar and government minister by the name of Kong Fuzi—later Latinized as Confucius by sixteenth-century Jesuits. … Confucius urged ethical and upright behavior, framing responsible government as a moral duty similar to parenthood. He believed providing a good example of moral conduct to the people would spur them to act within the confines of the law.”

How is Confucianism guiding President Xi Jinping?

CNN reported, “In the first few months since he took power, Xi has pushed a popular and arguably progressive agenda: attacking corruption, not just flies (junior officials) but a few tigers (senior officials) too; curbing official extravagance, like senseless banqueting, and, one of my favorites, banning ‘empty speeches.’

“But in recent weeks, Xi has turned ‘left’. He allowed tighter control over the traditional and social media, silenced dissenting voices among academics and scholars, and cracked down on liberal activists, petitioners and protesters.”

Return to Articles 51 – 54 to help understand what Xi might be thinking when he curbs official extravagance, silences dissenting voices, and cracks down on activists.

Is Xi Jinping following the Confucian Ideal of Harmony?

Harmony (known as “he”) is probably the most cherished ideal in Chinese culture. The word “he” predates Confucius. Its earliest form can be found in the inscriptions on bones and tortoise shells from the Shang dynasty (16th to 11th centuries B.C.E.)

The Harmonious Society (Chinese: 和谐社会; pinyin: héxié shèhuì) has been a socioeconomic vision in China. The concept of social harmony dates back to ancient China, to the time of Confucius. As a result, the philosophy has also been characterized as a form of New Confucianism.

Therefore, when Xi Jinping and/or the Chinese Communist Party “cracks down” on corrupt officials, activists, and protestors, think about what a harmonious society means to them and what they think they have to do to achieve one, and do not confuse “he” with the Western concept of human rights.

Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine, Crazy is Normal, Running with the Enemy, and The Redemption of Don Juan Casanova.

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What Makes China Different?

April 3, 2019

China is one of the oldest continuous civilizations in the world. In fact, while older civilizations around the world crashed, burned and vanished, every time a Chinese dynasty collapsed, China picked itself up, started a new dynasty and continued on. Some have argued that the Chinese Communist Party and its republic is just another dynasty with a twist.

Bloomberg even said, “This Chinese Dynasty Needs a Name. This Communist Party of China, it is frequently asserted, is a misnamed organization. That’s because, since the party began experimenting with private enterprise in the 1970s, it has shed much of the intellectual baggage associated with Marx, Lenin and that ilk.”

The Chinese culture features an abundance of values, unchanged over millennia. In spite of the influence from outside of China and numerous invasions, the Chinese culture preserved its unique identity.

Rebecca Graf points out 13 of the major cultural differences between China and the world.

Graf says, “These differences do not make either culture better or worse than the other one. It just shows their differences which has been created through centuries of history and development. China can trace its traditions and customs for thousands of years. America is still a small babe of a nation that has had very few traditions of its own but has become such a melting pot of cultures that there is almost no specific American culture that can be said is applied across the board. This makes both cultures unique and worthy of study and respect.”

Three of the 13 differences Graf mentions in her piece on Owlcation are: Respect for Elders, Humility, and Collectivism. She says, “The Chinese looks more at the group collective than at individualism. … A person from China is more prone to look at how their acts affect the whole instead of how it affects them personally. They are more willing to give up and sacrifice for the greater good. For the Chinese, each person fits into the greater body of the nation, so individual accomplishments are downplayed.”

To hold on to those unique differences, during the Ming Dynasty, China experienced isolationism motivated by a desire to prevent foreign influences from undermining Chinese values. Study.com reported, “After being ruled by Mongol emperors for almost 100 years, Ming society was obsessed with restoring a sense of absolute Chinese culture. Chinese arts rejected foreign influences, and the emperors restricted trade with foreign nations for much of the 14th and 15th centuries.”

However, the BBC reports, “In the 19th Century, European nations used military power to pry open China’s market. To earn hard currency from China, the British and Americans even smuggled opium into China and basically drugged its people.”

The result was two Opium Wars (1839-1842 and 1856-1860). When China lost those two wars that eventually led to the Boxer Rebellion of 1899-1901, another failed attempt by the Chinese people to rid China of foreign influence.

Even the Chinese Civil War (1927-1950) was a result of foreign meddling in China’s affairs, and Mao’s Cultural Revolution (1966-1976) was another attempt to rid China of foreign influences that had been forced on the country starting in 1839 with the first Opium War.  In fact, it was under Mao that China ended illegal drug use in 24 hours. The People’s Liberation Army rounded up and executed about a million drug dealers and forced more than 20-million Chinese addicts into compulsory treatment with a warning that if they were caught using again, they would suffer the same fate the dealers did.

China stayed fairly drug free until Deng Xiaoping opened China to foreign trade again even with China’s existing strict laws concerning illegal drug use. Today, sentencing for drug trafficking could include capital punishment.  For example, the seizure of 50 grams or more of heroin or crystal methamphetamine might result in the use of the death penalty by the Chinese government.

Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine, Crazy is Normal, Running with the Enemy, and The Redemption of Don Juan Casanova.

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Does China have the best Chance to save Civilization?

March 20, 2019

The Chinese Government Is Dominated by Scientists and Engineers and this is why China and its leaders may be the only country on the planet capable of saving our species and its modern civilization.

Donald Trump doesn’t qualify to save the world. He is a serial liar. He doesn’t believe in science. He is a troll and a bully. He is proud of his ignorance and brags that he doesn’t read books, but worst of all, he is a malignant narcissist and psychopath, and his only goal is to build walls and make money for his family business.

Then there is the brutal fact that to most if not all of the America’s oligarchs of capitalism from the Koch brothers to the Walmart Walton family, if it is unprofitable to fight global warming, then we will do nothing.

There is also how the political system works or doesn’t work in the United States compared to how China’s one-party political system operates through the use of Guanxi.

In a Mad Hatter Libertarian-Trumpian world, it is always an “I” win and you lose situation, because the United States is fracturing into tribal groups incapable of compromise. The New York Times explored this topic in Does American Tribalism end in a compromise or a fight.

Russian Officials have even canceled a U.S. visit saying, “Second American Civil War” is underway.


Will China save the Planet?

However, that isn’t a problem in China. In “How to Lobby Beijing”, we discover that to win in China it has to be a win-win situation between business and the interests of the government.  That means both sides must be willing to find a middle ground and compromise.

What’s the best way to lobby the Chinese central government? “It is very important for foreign companies to make their case, make their argument to the Chinese officials in ways in which there is a win-win, where the Chinese can achieve their objective and the company can achieve their objective,” says Sandy Berger. The official-turned-lobbyist gives us the conventional wisdom–and a buzz phrase to boot.

The European Union “might” — and it is a big “might” because even Europe is in the throes of nationalism — survive and work with China to save civilization, but Russia is probably a lost cause since it is now a kleptocracy ruled by a small number of oligarchs who are also the leaders of most organized crime in that country and the boss of bosses is another psychopath called Putin.

Psychology Today reports, ” There can be little doubt that his (Putin’s) brain has been neurologically and physically changed (damaged) so much that he firmly and genuinely believes that without him, Russia is doomed. Absolute power for long periods makes you blind to risk, highly egocentric, narcissistic and utterly devoid of self-awareness. They also make you see other people as objects and the emotional-cognitive consequence of all this is…contempt.”  This previous paragraph could also be used to describe Donald Trump.

What about Xi Jinping – is he a world-class leader capable of keeping a clear-and-open mind and saving civilization even in the face of Climate Change?  We have no choice but to hope that answer is yes or at least maybe, because it seems there is no one else humanity may turn to.

The Cipher Brief.com attempts to profile and understand China’s illusive Xi Jinping. “To truly understand China’s President Xi Jinping is to accept his quintessential Chinese qualities, resilience, and psychological strength, and to conceptualize Xi not as merely another Mao or ‘Red Princeling,’ but rather, as his father’s son. For Xi Zhongxun, one of Mao’s closest comrades and founders of modern China, veteran of the Long March and survivor of Kang Sheng’s 1930s purges, the youngest Vice Prime Minister in China during the 1950s, and (along with Deng Xiaoping) a leader of reform and ‘opening up’ during the late 1970s, was also, in his own manner, ‘impressive.’ In summary, observers of Xi Jinping might thereby appreciate the qualities that bind together father and son for, in the words of Wordsworth, ‘the child is father to the man.’”

In conclusion, we can only hope that Xi Jinping will understand that to save China, he has to save the world, because it is obvious that there may not be another world leader capable of accomplishing it, certainly not Donald Trump or Vladimir Putin.

The future and survival of our species and the environment we need to survive may now be in China’s hands and at this moment that means Xi Jinping and the CCP, a political party led by scientists and engineers, not by corporate lobbyists and organized crime lords.

It is possible that this explains why Xi Jinping and the CCP he leads is cracking down on any divisive thinking and actions in China that might be seen as getting in the way of saving the world.

Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine, Crazy is Normal, Running with the Enemy, and The Redemption of Don Juan Casanova.

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GUANXI

March 13, 2019

The more China changes, the more it stays the same.

Just because China has a one-party political system that calls itself the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), that doesn’t mean the government is not Chinese. In fact, the CCP maintains that despite the co-existence of private capitalists and entrepreneurs with public and collective enterprises, China is not a capitalist country because the party retains control over the direction of the country, maintaining its course of socialist development.

In China, Guanxi is a complex system of social networks and influential relationships which facilitate business and other dealings. Because Guanxi is built into social networks and influential relationships, it also runs deep through the CCP like threads through a complex interwoven, handmade tapestry.

Sir Robert Hart (1835 – 1911), the godfather of China’s modernization and the main character in my historical fiction novel, My Splendid Concubine, discovered the importance of Guanxi soon after he arrived in China and eventually went to work for China’s Emperor. Hart quickly learned that a ‘supreme value of loyalty glued together China’s structure of personal relationships.’

In addition, Robert Hart wrote in a letter in 1891, “These people (referring to the Chinese) never act too soon, and, so far, I have not known of their losing anything by being late. To glide naturally, easily and seasonably into the safe position sequence as circumstances make, is probably a sounder though less heroic policy for a state than to be forever experimenting …”

To translate, it takes time to develop Guanxi through relationships, friendships, and trust where everyone benefits. In China, one must prove they can be trusted before being accepted into a Guanxi social and/or business network.

There are several elements and layers to Guanxi. First, Guanxi is based on a Confucian hierarchy of familial relationships, long-term friendships, classmates, and schoolmates that no stranger, Chinese or foreign, will ever have access to.

Guanxi developed over millennia because China did not have a stable and effective legal system similar to the one that developed in western countries.

And thanks to the greed, insanity, and incompetence of President Donald Trump and the Libertarian movement in the United States, China will probably never become a capitalist kleptocracy like the U.S. is fast becoming. Guanxi will make sure that never happens in China, and corrupt individuals like Donald Trump will never understand how Guanxi works because of his inability to be honest and trust others. To Trump, he must always win and everyone else must lose.

Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine, Crazy is Normal, Running with the Enemy, and The Redemption of Don Juan Casanova.

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COLORS

March 3, 2019

Colors are important in Chinese culture and some colors come with lucky meanings. For instance the three main colors considered lucky in people’s daily lives as well as on special occasions are red, yellow, and green.

However, it isn’t that simple.

Allegravita.com reports, “While every world culture has its own unique symbolism and taboos, it’s fair to say that the ancient and very complex Chinese culture is the big daddy of cultural symbolism. Highly resonant symbolic memes run so old and deep that it’s impossible to summarize them into one blog post, or even a hundred posts.”

Associated with but ranked above brown, yellow signifies neutrality and good luck. Yellow is sometimes paired with red in place of gold. Yellow was the emperor’s color in Imperial China and is held as the symbolic color of the five legendary emperors of ancient China.

Nations Online says, “Historically, people actually worshipped the color yellow during the reign of the legendary Chinese sage king, a chief deity of Taoism, Huang Di or Huang Ti, better known as the Yellow Emperor. He is the emperor that is said to be the ancestor of all Han Chinese people and is believed to have reigned around 2697 BC to 2598 BC.

“Huang Di was coined the name Yellow Emperor because his army tribe honoured the value of the ‘Yellow Earth’ which was the symbol of farming and the ‘Yellow River’ of the central land (China).”

Nations Online also lists the colors and what they mean. For instance, RED: “traditional bridal color, expansive, blooming, dynamic, enthusiastic, reaching upwards, good luck, celebration, happiness, joy, vitality, long life; red purple brings luck and fame, money, recognition, propriety, creativity, joy vs. over excitation.”

In the West, North America, and Europe, white is usually the traditional bridal color.

Today in China

“Yellow is still reserved for royalty. Clothing and objects that are yellow in color still resemble a higher social status. Although each dynasty designated each official rank with their own color, yellow is reserved for the emperor himself.

“The color yellow and its shades are also the main color of Buddhism; thus it represents being free from worldly cares.

“Red is still used for happiness and joy. In fact, after the Ming Dynasty, only the Emperor’s close relatives could have homes with red walls and yellow roof tiles. Peasants could only live in homes made with blue bricks and roof tiles. Today though, most houses are made of black tiles and white walls.

“Blue-green is still a symbol of spring when everything is filled with vigor and vitality. Therefore, someone that is hoping for longevity and harmony will decorate with blue-green colors.

“White is a symbol of the unknown and purity. The color white is used during the time of mourning, death, and during ghost festivals. Therefore Chinese people will wear white during a funeral or while summoning ghosts.

“Black is used as the symbol of winter and the westerly skies which behold the heavens. It is used for times of the unknown and for the winter months.”

Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine, Crazy is Normal, Running with the Enemy, and The Redemption of Don Juan Casanova.

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Who Will Survive the Next Big Global Economic Crises

February 13, 2019

When the next global economic crises hits — not if, but when — how will China deal with it compared to the United States?

First, as of October 2018, the U.S. government owes China $1.138 trillion dollars.  That’s 29 percent of the $3.9 trillion in Treasury bills, notes, and bonds held by foreign countries. The rest of the $21 trillion U.S. national debt is owned by either the American people or by the U.S. government itself. That is equivalent to about 47.6% of GDP.

On the other hand, the national debt of the People’s Republic of China is the total amount of money owed by the government and all state organizations and government branches of China. As of October 2018, it stands at approximately CN¥ 36 trillion (US$ 5.2 trillion),

In 2007, the United States federal government was only $9-trillion in debt. Today, it is $22.7 trillion in debt and with Trump cutting taxes and spending more; it is going to grow much bigger. The United States recorded a government debt equivalent to 105.40-percent of the country’s Gross Domestic Product in 2017, and there is no end in sight.

After 2008, almost nine-million Americans lost their jobs, and there were more than 3.1 million foreclosure filings issued during 2008, and that was just for that one year. That can’t happen in rural China and most of China’s factory workers have homes in rural China. When a job is lost in an urban city, the government gave the unemployed workers a free train ticket to go home to the countryside where the family home was not at risk of being taken away since there was no mortgage or property tax to worry about.

What happened in China after 2008 reveals how the Chinese will survive the next global financial disaster.

“The lack in demand from abroad meant factory closures, resulting in high job losses all over China. Guangzhou, a major manufacturing town, lost tens of thousands of workers in 2008, forcing citizens to return to their home in the countryside.”  Along with being forced to go home, most if not all of those Chinese citizens were allowed to retire early and collect Social Security. Younger workers were put to work in state owned factories and sent to work on infrastructure projects.

HROne says, “China’s Social Security System consists of 5 mandatory insurance schemes (pension fund, medical insurance, industrial injury insurance, unemployment insurance and maternity insurance) + a housing fund (only applicable to Chinese employees).” … “An individual can receive a pension based on the amount accumulated in his/her individual fund after retirement.”

“In general, individuals need to pay at least 15-years of contributions prior to receiving a pension in China. Some industries have different retirement ages, but mainly men are 55 years old, women are 50 years old (blue-collar work), men are 60 years old, and women are 55 years old (white-collar work). The amount of retirement benefits depends on local regulations. Due to China’s population problems, these ages may soon change.”

The difference between the United States is China incorporates the characteristics of socialism, capitalism, and communism. China is not a pure communist or socialist or capitalist state. It is a hybrid and the CCP holds the reins of power.

As a socialist-capitalism country, all of China’s land is owned by the government. In urban China, the government leases homes and businesses but doesn’t sell the land. In most of if not all of rural China there is no mortgage or property tax, so losing your urban job and returning to your rural village home in the countryside doesn’t mean you are going to lose your home and become homeless. China also launched a $586 billion stimulus package designed to encourage more consumer spending and build new infrastructure putting people to work.

The United States is one of the most capitalistic countries in the world. Capitalism is an ideology where the means of production is controlled by private business. This means that wealthy, powerful individual citizens run the economy without government interfering in production or pricing.

What did the United States do in 2008?  President G. W. Bush, not President Obama, signed TARP’s 700-billion dollar bailout program. The initial purpose was to save the banks … not the people. The TARP program quickly turned around the banking industry but the U.S. didn’t do what China did to generate consumer spending and create infrastructure jobs. Yet infrastructure in the US is in horrible shape from its electric grid, its highway system, to its railroad network and bridges. G. W. Bush never intended the banks to pay the government back. When Obama became president, he changed that and most of that public money was paid back to the government.

While China used its government bailout money to help its people, the United States did nothing for its working-consumer class and more than a decade later many Americans are still struggling to survive financially.  When the next global economic crises hits, no one knows what will happen in the United States, because that depends on who is president at the time and what political party controls one or both Houses of Congress

For instance, instead of improving the social safety net in the United States, MarketWatch.com reports, “Why the latest warnings about cuts to Social Security and Medicare are a reason to worry.”

Here’s how bad: “Unless something’s done to shore up Social Security, monthly checks could get cut 23% by 2034.”

I think it’s a safe bet that China’s government will do something similar to what it did in and after 2008.

The United States will probably also do the same thing it did last time: bail out the banks and big corporations while continuing to keep cutting taxes for the wealthiest one-percent of Americans. As for the social safety net that’s supposed to be there for most U.S. citizens, who knows how it will weather another economic crises since it is already at risk.

Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine, Crazy is Normal, Running with the Enemy, and The Redemption of Don Juan Casanova.

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