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Samizdata quote of the day

This is an amazing piece. To censor China’s internet, the censors have to be taught the real version of Chinese history so that they know what to block.

Mike Bird comments on this piece in the New York Times.

23 comments to Samizdata quote of the day

  • Perry Metzger (New York, USA)

    Luckily, they’ll soon be able to use machine learning systems for it, which will save money and labor. Eventually, they can replace the entire population with machine learning based systems, and then they won’t need for the censorship infrastructure any more.

  • bobby b

    This might be why China sought out its new censorship-and-tracking programming from Google’s Dragonfly division. Faster learning curve working with people who haven’t been subjected to a lifetime of China’s Official Views. They already know what to punish.

  • Runcie Balspune

    the censors have to be taught …

    “You know, he really does look like Pooh“.

  • Julie near Chicago


    Thanks very much for this posting, including the link to Mr. Bird’s tweet et seq.

    I’ve thought for a long time that things in China might be far less rosy than many free-marketers believe.

    [Ghost cities … Falun Gong … repeated reports of horrible treatment of various individuals … (no doubt our pal Chomsky would pooh-pooh such reports as the false claims made by disgruntled “victims”) … and now American companies helping the Chinese regime by providing censoring software — or however it works — á la Google providing filtering to China in its search results so as to get their business ….]

    (And speaking of “libertarians,” I still remember an interview with Jim Rodgers that I heard, or maybe read, sometime in the ’00s. He said that he was all in favor of the situation in China. Why, in 1988 he had made a long tour through the hinterlands of China on his bicycle, and was encouraged to see how happy/upbeat/whatever-the-word-was the Chinese peasants were. He sounded quite enthusiastic.)


    My gut reaction to the NYT piece was that this is where in simple human decency our government should lay down the law to Google and the rest that they are not to do business with countries that have governmentally-required censorship.

    It is extremely difficult for my libertarian mindset to overcome said gut reaction. The only argument I have boils down to “the ‘cure’ would be worse than the disease.” Which of course is the basic argument against most leftish/librul/Proggie and also “right”-ish proposals or initiatives or objectives.

    –Well, of course the argument from moral first principles is also basic. But have Google et al. shown that they deserve the hands-off treatment that the moral principle demands? Or are they in fact violating it by helping the Chinese government to commit and to suppress knowledge of its own violent crimes against its people?

    * * *

    Mr. Pichai, Mr. Zuckerberg, and even Mr. Cook, are you listening? Where is your moral line that you will not cross? –I will note that not one of you seems to be interested in limited government in general: You all seem to be in favor of your own pet governmental impositions. So I don’t see how you could complain if government restricted your own market, at least not ones in which you are tailoring your products to meet the demands totalitarian regimes.

    Do you think that helping China to suppress her people’s knowledge of history, of f’rgoshsakes the Tiananmen Massacre (far, far more than a mere “crackdown”) is even to the long-term benefit of your stockholders.

    And while I’m at it. Why the H*!! is Israel letting China into bed with it?

  • Julie near Chicago

    Everyone seemingly everywhere (except Paul and me) has been and remains all joyful over Nixon’s rapprochement with China.

    But the diplomatic quarantine showed that at least in the eyes of the U.S., evil must not to be encouraged by giving it the face of decency.

    The only thing that people generally praise about Nixon is the thing for which they ought to excoriate him most.

  • Everyone seemingly everywhere (except Paul and me) has been and remains all joyful over Nixon’s rapprochement with China. (Julie near Chicago, January 5, 2019 at 1:50 am)

    Not me; Nixon got played – by Mao and by the PC media of his day in the US (and by himself).

    Reading the Mao biography, I think Jung Chang and her husband reach the same assessment.

  • pete

    The article does not amaze me.

    It would amaze me if an authoritarian communist regime like China’s did not exercise such control over its country’s internet.

  • Randy on West Coast, sort of

    It isn’t so much that Nixon “got played” as it was a case of complacent Nixon not taking China seriously enough. Many people of that era had little accurate perspective on Chinese long-term capabilities, since China could not even feed its population at that time, much less create a modern industrial power. The major expansion of China’s economy and military capabilities came after they allowed their economy to work on a longer leash….quasi-capatitalism became permissible, so long as it undertook projects that increased China’s industrial power, AND the quasi-capitalists avoided any challenge to the Communist Party political leaders. Their quasi-capitalism started in 1982 as local farmers set up private farms to replace the communes, because the farmers and their villages had seen firsthand how much starvation the communes caused. This was the first relaxation or crack in the Communist Party wall. Interesting article at: https://www.cato.org/policy-report/januaryfebruary-2013/how-china-became-capitalist .

    China’s control over Hong Kong post 1997 expiration of the British 99 year lease, led to a relatively slow and cautious extension of CP control over Hong Kong, which showed the CP that there were certain aspects of capitalism that they could use to INCREASE THEIR WEALTH AND POWER. Somewhat oddly, the CP wanted to use Hong Kong as a laboratory to see why capitalism seemed to work better than communism, so China was willing to let Hong Kong have its way, so long as they were not too politically independent. After a transition period, China decided to use capitalist methods and theories to improve their economy. Note that there was a fairly strong dichotomy between the CP political sphere and the quasi-capitalist economic sphere, but this was hardly the first time a nation had seemingly contradictory theories of operation between the political and economic segments of the nation. For example, Nazi Germany did not seize all the corporations in Germany in the 1930’s. but allowed them to compete with each other to increase the speed of new technology development. Compare the two major state corporations that designed and built almost all the fighter planes in the Soviet Union, versus the dozen or so that competed for fighter plane contracts in Nazi Germany, and the various companies that vied for tank and artillery contracts with their latest inventions. The rapidity of German military technology growth in the 1930’s is rather like China’s in the 1990’s. But none of China’s advances could have been foreseen by Nixon in 1972. Remember that China at that time was buying almost all its military equipment from the Soviet Union at that time, since they didn’t have the technology to do it themselves.

  • Paul Marks

    The European Union is very keen on censoring the internet – and Mrs May in this country is to.

    But it is hardly necessary – as internet companies (the Silicon Valley Cartel and so on) are only too happy to censor-political-dissent, indeed to engage in active political persecution on behalf of the left. As is the “financial industry” (the Credit Bubble bankers – and the “Payment Processing” companies). The political agenda is not even hidden – HSBC (one of the largest British banks) has been running a P.C. advertising campaign for a long time now, and Lloyds (another of the largest British banks) had a nonstop Frankfurt School style video running in the local branch (and I assume other branches round the country) whenever I go in there – with all the standard Frankfurt School messaging about race, homosexuality and-so-on.

    Of course the People’s Republic of China is not so into Frankfurt School of Marxism stuff as Western governments and “Big Business” (governments and big business being joined at the hip in many countries) is – indeed “white leftist” is a term of abuse in China and Asia generally (I am told there is even a Chinese character for it).

    “But what about non commercial sites!” – they are just as bad, for example people with “editorial privileges” on Wikipedia regularly censor and ban, thus preventing the left being challenged (no matter how extreme the bare faced LIES are the left are pushing).

    Still Chinese history……

    Yes – the People’s Republic of China is wilder in its lies than the old Soviet Union was.

    The Soviet Union, like National Socialist Germany, normally used to get a bit of truth and then build a lie upon that foundation. Mao’s China was more blatant – and just plain daft.

    I can not read Chinese – but I have been told that the standard “history” books under Mao claimed that the 1911 Chinese coup against the monarchy was “inspired by the Communist Party”, but ALSO (the same books) stated that the Communist Party was founded in the early 1920s.

    In short generations of Chinese students were taught that the Communist Party brought down the Chinese monarchy – ten years BEFORE the Communist Party existed.

    The students, not being stupid people, concluded (privately – each in their own thoughts) that the Communist Party were a bunch of liars (and careless liars at that). Which they were – and ARE.

  • Paul Marks

    Julie and Niall.

    What the “mainstream” (the “liberals”) are saying, and quite blatantly, was that President Nixon was CORRECT to go crawling to Mao – they even make operas about it (and I mean in the West – John Adams who also made “The Death of Klinghoffer” with all the anti Israel stuff in it), and they celebrate it.

    This was at a time when Mao was having MILLIONS of people murdered – and they know that (the “liberals” know that very well). It would have been like a British Prime Minister going to crawl to Mr Hitler – NOT in the 1930s (no – certainly not), but in the early 1940s DURING the Holocaust.

    Ockham’s razor comes into play here – WHY do the left (NOT all of them – but certainly MOST of them) not care about the murder of millions of people under Mao, indeed why do they think it was correct to actually ALLY with Mao?

    Very simple – they, the establishment left (who have so much influence over education and so on) would like to do something similar HERE.

    Only a few years ago various people associated with the Obama Administration openly stated how much they admired Mao – and Mao was DEAD (long DEAD) they had no reason (but one) to say this, he could not reward them in any way.

    They said it because THEY MEANT IT. When there was “push back”, when it was pointed out that that Mao was responsible for the deaths of TENS OF MILLIONS of human beings, they (the establishment left who influence the West) went quiet – but they not apologise or express remorse.

    As for the future……

    By 2021 the People’s Republic of China will have the “Social Credit” system on line – people will no longer be treated on the basis of how much money they pay, they will be treated on the basis of their OPINIONS and their CONDUCT – people who express the “correct” opinions and behave in the “correct” way will prosper, people who do not – will….. errr “not prosper”.

    Western Big Business, at least the Silicon Valley Cartel and the “financial services industry”, will LOVE this, but they will put their own spin on it – what a way of making everyone Progressive! Be Progressive, support “Social Justice” or STARVE! Excellent – what a jolly good idea. I am sure that Lloyds bank will be happy to make a video about it and play it (constantly) in their branches.

    Who want to be a “mere money grubber” a “dirty capitalist” – when one can be a Social Justice Warrior!

    The joy of helping the governments of the West set up totalitarian states and wipe out all dissent! How wonderful! This is what a “modern”, “educated” Corporate Manager wants to do. Only reactionary people who have not been properly “educated” could be against this – people who most likely vote for Donald Trump (the racist bigots….)

    “Then set up alternative companies” – err, have you forgotten the “Payment Processors” and so on. Government regulations “help” a great deal in this regard.

  • bobby b

    Julie near Chicago
    January 5, 2019 at 1:50 am

    “Everyone seemingly everywhere (except Paul and me) has been and remains all joyful over Nixon’s rapprochement with China.”

    Some wise foreigner once said something along the lines of “to jaw-jaw is always better than to war-war.” One can complain that Nixon “gave face” to China merely by talking to them, but did he really give up anything besides that? The idea that maintaining a complete disconnect from a huge and growing world superpower would pressure that superpower to drastically alter its philosophies seems . . . rosy-minded to me.

    We gained from that visit in our relationship with the USSR, and with most of the East. We can condemn China’s bloody history, but, if you compare savagery on a per-capita basis, then if we cannot deal with China because of its past, we have absolutely no business ever dealing with Japan, a country that has proven far bloodier through the 2nd China-Japan War and World War 2 than China ever was – and Japan can’t even point to a revolution as the basis for its butchery.

    Should Nixon have left China to brood away in isolation? I’d guess that his opening of China to the world influenced its moving away from the wholesale slaughter of its past.

  • The Wobbly Guy


    And while I’m at it. Why the H*!! is Israel letting China into bed with it?

    Because Israel plays realpolitick well, and simply asks the question whenever they have to make a decision – is it good for us Jews and our citizens?

    Human rights don’t really factor into it.

    China is no friend of Islam. That already gives them a huge plus in Israel’s book.

    As for China, I think the minds of the majority Han chinese operate pretty much the same everywhere – just let us get on with our lives, let us live comfortably, and we won’t rock the boat. Hide the worst facts from us, the worst scandals, we’ll all pretend nothing’s wrong.

    I live in Singapore, I should know. Simply put, our ethnic tendencies are simply different from those in the West. It can even be argued that it could be genetic in nature – thousands of years under dynastic rule should have certain selection effects…

  • Julie near Chicago

    I wrote:

    Everyone seemingly everywhere … has been and remains all joyful over Nixon’s rapprochement with China.

    The approval is not limited to lefties nor even libruls. Alleged free-marketers and rightish pundits and commenters join the chorus. For instance, VDH comes out all in favor of it, with one of the standard arguments (in a recent piece defending Pres. Trump’s attitude in dealing with China):



    Regardless of the reasons why Nixon did what he did, I have to wonder, What if China had never been admitted into the parlors and bedrooms of the more civilized nations, once Nixon opened the door? It is possible that we would not have seen nearly the degree technology theft leading to its advancing military capabilities, nor to American firms’ on truckling to the regimes in their pursuit of markets, nor to their enabling of Chinese IP theft for the same reason.

    But whether or not things would be roughly the same absent Nixon, my point in my first comment remains, and I stand by every word of it.

    [FWIW, I would not call China a “capitalist country” anymore than I would Nazi Germany. (Even restricting the meaning of “capitalism” to the economic sphere.)]


    Niall, thanks for the reminder on Mao: The Untold Story. It’s gotten somewhat buried under list of succeeding must-reads.

    Randy, thanks for the discussion and the link. I see that Ronald Coase is an author of the article. I would love to see a precise definition of what he means in that article by “the market economy.”

    And to the Sage: One can only repeat, as one has so many times before, “Amen.”

  • Julie near Chicago

    Wobbly Guy, wrt Israel’s attitude that (to whatever extent you are correct) “Realpolitik” is the order of the day, and “human rights don’t really enter into it”:

    If they don’t, they jolly well should. Does Israel think that if China eats the West, it won’t eat them? Is China really going to give whole-hearted and supportive welcome to the Jews?

    And at that, at least Israel shows some concern for her people as living, individual human beings. Is this really so in China?

    Lastly, “human rights” properly speaking are the rights to liberty and property: The right of individuals to live for themselves, with the right of self-determination, basic and the foundation of the other rights; and not as mere cogs in a political machine.

    Basic human rights do not include rights that require services from another person.

    Whether or not this is within your particular cultural outlook, it certainly should be within Israel’s, even though Judaism itself is generally seen as having its roots in tribalism and might not therefore have put individualism first.

    If the Han Chinese generally want to keep their heads down so as not to be the “tall poppy,” I can understand that; but the issue is, why they or anyone else should have to do so lest the government come in with kleptomania, whips, torture, and murder.


    The only other thing I can think of that has me equally exercised is the situation with the UK and its NHS. Just one example is the Baby Charlie Gard affair; the NHS refused to release him to his parents for care elsewhere, and I’m told that though doctors and nurses from other countries offered to assume his care at no charge, they were refused.

    I could easily get to ranting about this situation, but I will restrain myself. Suffice only to say that Obamacare also aimed to put individual lives in the hands of the State via medical care. See Stalin on this!

  • Julie near Chicago

    bobby, first, there is a time when jaw-jaw has to come to end, or the war is lost. Sun-Tzu himself said that the best war is the one that’s won before it starts. If the Chinese could win the West without militarily fighting, so much the better.

    The question one must ask oneself is whether he truly thinks that China could become a really threatening superpower without the help of the West — in view of all the spying, theft of Western technology, and expropriation of intellectual property that it has done. Had China not had the door opened for it, would these have occurred, or occurred on such a massive scale as seems to be the case? If these had not occurred, would China really have invented superior military force herself?

    And one must also ask whether he really thinks that appeasement as the way to ward off war, whether waged violently or “diplomatically.”

    In any case, my main point was that the American so-called “capitalists” are certainly not exactly selling but more like handing the Chinese regime the rope by which their citizens are to be hung. And we should remember the line, said to be Lenin’s, that “The Capitalists will sell us the rope with which we will hang them.” That would be us — Google, Zuckerberg, Apple, many many more, and those of us who are too excited about China to be wary.


    The situation with Japan is entirely different, as you very well know. First, Japan started a fighting war with us, which it was absolutely obviously necessary for us to win. Second, when we did, we didn’t just pat her on the head, say “There there children we know you’ll mend your ways now,” and go home (which, notice, is what Obama did in Iraq, but never mind). No, we stayed there in order to see that she would conduct herself like a civilized country. Let the dead past bury its dead? Yes, certainly — but only to the extent to which it has actually done so.

    China continues the kidnappings, torture, murders. I have never head that modern Japanese regimes use these measures against her people. (Although I have read that the place is still a police state in that children and neighbors are supposed to report on possible doings against the state by their parents and “friends.”)

  • The Wobbly Guy


    Wobbly Guy, wrt Israel’s attitude that (to whatever extent you are correct) “Realpolitik” is the order of the day, and “human rights don’t really enter into it”:

    If they don’t, they jolly well should.

    Why should they? Your concerns are not necessarily their concerns.

    Does Israel think that if China eats the West, it won’t eat them? Is China really going to give whole-hearted and supportive welcome to the Jews?

    Given China’s historical tendencies, I think Israel is fairly certain the worst outcome is to be a tributary state. As outcomes go, that’s really not bad (it’s not as bad as being ruled by the Romans, for example, or to be wiped out entirely if the Muslims have their way). The best outcome would be something similar to Israel’s status with the US – a valued ally, protected and aided with constant propaganda by sympathisers and co-ethnics in industry, particularly the media. Note that very few US politicians, perhaps not even Trump, has criticised Israel for its close ties with China. Have any of the new wave Democrats, especially the anti-Israel wing, done so?

    To be free from mainstream criticism – now that’s POWER.

    I do think the Israelis are overestimating their chances of the best outcome, since us Han may not be as gullible as whites, especially Han elites, but there’s a fair chance, so kudos to Israel for playing their cards smart.

    And at that, at least Israel shows some concern for her people as living, individual human beings. Is this really so in China?

    Not at all. And again, how is that a factor for Israel? China, AFAIK, has not quite demanded its vassal states to adopt Chinese norms. There seems to be some understanding that what works in China may not necessarily work in other countries.

    but the issue is, why they or anyone else should have to do so lest the government come in with kleptomania, whips, torture, and murder.

    Because the historical Chinese experience has been that all these state abuses are preferable to chaos and warring states. I know it’s crazy, a false dichotomy, but that’s really how people think. I talk to some Singaporean elderly why they continue to vote for the PAP, and all I hear are the exact same answers which can be applied to the PRC.

    That’s why Taiwan is such a threat – by its very existence and political structure, it shows the Han chinese that what they have stuck to for thousands of years isn’t the only way – there ARE viable, stable, prosperous alternatives.

  • bobby b

    Julie, my point was that the Japanese have always been more bloodthirsty and savage than the Chinese, and our rapprochement with them involved us turning our gaze away from a far worse people than did our rapprochement with China.

    I went back and looked up a short quote on Quora that I read a while back that gives a feel for what I’m saying:

    “First, despite the common portrayal of the “Yellow Peril”, the Chinese are in fact a civilized people who are a lot less intrinsically prone to violence than most others. They are, in fact, people you can negotiate with. This was especially clear to the US government at the end of WWII. Let’s start with a historic number.

    There were about 2 million Japanese and 5 million Chinese soldiers involved in the Second Sino-Japanese War during WWII. At the end of the war, the Chinese repatriated over 2 million Japanese POWs and civilians within 3 years. The Japanese turned over 56 POWs to the Chinese.


    Of the millions of POWs captured, only 56 survived.

    . . .

    Go do your own research on how many POWs survived the war and repatriated by the Allied troops, by Germany, by Russia, (hint: they are all in the millions), and then recall that 65,000 people managed to survived Auschwitz. But in China, this is on top of the 20 million civilians killed, the massive live human experiments conducted at Unit 731, the release of bubonic plague at Ningbo which, if successful, would lead to Operation Cherry Blossoms at Night in California. Oh, and remember the famous Doolittle Raid? Well, the pilots flew on to China and were rescued by Chinese villagers. In response the Japanese launched a reprisal against the Chinese that wiped out a quarter million Chinese lives, most of them were civilians.”

    That was the Japan that existed before the end of WWII – a barbarous people – and we still accepted them as co-inhabitants of the world and worked to rehabilitate them. For their 100 years of history directly prior to WWII, they probably deserved less of a chance at rehabilitation than most cultures that have ever existed in the world. I used to know enough military people who came back from that part of the war to say that, for their treatment of soldiers and civilians throughout the Pacific during WWII, they deserved to have their country turned into a glass parking lot. (Sorry, but the memory of the stories I heard always bump my blood pressure up a bit.)

    In hindsight, reaching out to Japan turned out very well for us – they were eager to rejoin the world at the time – while, ultimately, reaching out to China made less of a difference. But that’s hindsight. I still think Nixon was correct (while maybe over-optimistic) when he went to China. I think that every president since Nixon has dealt with China naively and dumbly in many respects, which explains our lack of success with them, but I think Nixon made an attempt that deserved to be made.

  • Julie near Chicago

    bobby, I s/have been asleep long since. *yawn*

    But here, I think you mistake “rapprochement” as a synonym for “total conquest.” Our work in Japan after WWII did not have “rapprochement,” as some sort of meeting of the minds, as its main effect. Because we won that war, in which the Japanese were indeed savage in their behavior, we told them to behave our way OR ELSE. And we made it stick. We did not approach them — we told them.

    “…[O]ur rapprochement with [Japan, after the War] involved us turning our gaze away from a far worse people than did our rapprochement with China.”

    As you probably know, I’m not a fan of any of the current online dictionaries, but here’s Macmillan on “rapprochement”:

    the development of greater understanding and friendship between two countries or groups after they have been unfriendly

    At some point well after the conclusion of WWII, there developed a relationship of rapprochement in this sense with Japan; but it happened only because Japan had walked the walk of giving up gross savagery for many, many years. In other words, she underwent successful rehab. As I said before, China continues to treat her citizens (many of them) barbarically, and certainly did in 1972.

    And by the way, Nixon & Kiss must have known something of conditions in China in 1972. If li’l ol’ me, far out of the international-affairs loop at the time, knew enough of what went on there to be shocked and disgusted, how could this possibly have escaped the notice of the Administration.


    And once again, I have to reiterate that my main point is that these Tech Billionaires, and any lesser lights, ought to be ashamed of themselves for acting as enablers to the present regime.

  • bobby b

    “And once again, I have to reiterate that my main point is that these Tech Billionaires, and any lesser lights, ought to be ashamed of themselves for acting as enablers to the present regime.”

    On this, as well as the “s/have been asleep long since” point, we are in complete agreement. 🙂

  • Julie near Chicago


  • Some wise foreigner once said something along the lines of “to jaw-jaw is always better than to war-war.” (bobby b, January 5, 2019 at 11:46 pm)

    This is true, but also not relevant to Nixon-Mao. The US was not at war with China before or after the rapprochement. (The US was at war in Vietnam, and Nixon and Kissinger were taken but good in their idiotic idea that the rapprochement would help them there.) Mao made gains from the deal; the west did not. For example, Mao gained control of China’s security council seat – a big win for Mao, for which he was required to pay exactly nothing.

    The idea that maintaining a complete disconnect from a huge and growing world superpower would pressure that superpower to drastically alter its philosophies

    While Mao lived and ruled, there was zero likelihood of such change. Strengthening him, as the rapprochement did, made less than no difference to that.

    My point – complementary to Julie’s – is that, even from a wholly realpolitik assessment, Nixon was taken (and the PC media of his day wanted to be taken).

  • Mr Ed

    The excellent China Uncensored channel on YT has a video which talks about the differences between Taiwan and the PRC, one of which is that Mao’s simplification of characters has led to PRC Chinese being unable to easily read old texts, whereas the Taiwanese can. Mao backed off from romanisation of Chinese, but in China they have had to know what the original characters are, so as well as knowing the history, they need to know the written language, i.e. it is Newspeak as in 1984. So in Taiwan, they can more easily read ancient Chinese texts. The Com-boast/lie was that this was done to improve literacy rates.

  • Julie near Chicago

    Mr Ed.
    Somebody ought to force (force) Pachai, the Zucker, Cook, et al to watch this. With the last bit, on Falun Gong, on continuous loop.