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Gorbachev’s Seven Mistakes In the August 19th Incident

[Editor’s note: Former President of the Soviet Union Mikhail Gorbachev made history with his contribution to democratic advancement and the dissolution of the communist camp in Eastern European countries. Having survived the crisis of the student-led democratic movement in 1989, however, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) regards Mr. Gorbachev as a lesson in failure and has been particularly wary of an emergence of a Chinese Gorbachev. The following article was written by a professor from the College of International Relations, Renmin University of China on August 18, 2004.]

The August 19th Incident in 1991 in the former Soviet Union that shocked the world is a significant event during the dramatic change of the Soviet Union. Thirteen years have passed. Still when reviewing the incident, people react with emotion.

The August 19th Incident was a fight by the conservatives of the former Soviet Union to save the nation in the face of deep crisis. The goal was to protect the solidarity of the federated country, the dominance of the Communist Party, and the choice of socialism.

Back then the Soviet Union was in a desperate situation, where there were a lot of fierce political conflicts, and the radicals were growing rapidly and were anxious to take over power. The socialism of the Soviet Union was in dire peril. On the other hand, the conflicts within the Communist Party of the Soviet Union were surging and the Party was deeply divided. As Mikhail Gorbachev said at the July Plenary Assembly of the Soviet Communist Party Central Committee that year, the Communist Party of the Soviet Union was experiencing a crisis; there were 4.2 million people who quit the Party in the last one and half years, and many party factions were emerging. Reportedly there were 10 large factions. In addition, a national split was forthcoming. A crisis in which the Soviet Union was heading toward collapse appeared.

At this critical moment, the Central Committee of the Union, led by Vice President Gennadi Yanaev, a conservative leader, decided to launch a coup against Gorbachev when the latter was out of his office on vacation. They launched the coup on August 19 and declared a national emergency. However, the government was very weak in its functions, the military was divided, the social ideology was in extreme chaos, and the situation was very unfavorable for the conservatives. The conservatives’ coup not only failed to get positive support from various organizations of the Soviet Communist Party, but also faced intense opposition from the radicals. As a result, the conservatives’ coup lasted for only three days and quickly failed. Instead, the failure of the August 19th Incident further accelerated the fall of the Soviet Communist Party and the collapse of the Soviet Union. The tragedy of the fall of the State and Party finally occurred.

Later, Gorbachev simply attributed the collapse of the Soviet Union to the August 19th Incident launched by the conservative leaders. Many people also talk about how the August 19th Incident led to the fall of the Soviet Union. Evidently such a conclusion is wrong. The key to the dramatic change and to the fall of the Soviet Union was the serious and directional mistakes that Gorbachev made, which led the Soviet Union’s reform astray.{mospagebreak}

Generally, Gorbachev’s reform made the following seven mistakes:

1. Overzealously promoting so-called "openness" and negating the revolutionary history and realistic socialism. Gorbachev preached the so-called "absolute openness," and advocated "unlimited openness without any reservation." He turned openness into a "one way street" that was dedicated to uncovering the dark and negative side of the history and the present. In particular, Gorbachev belittled and smeared the era of Brezhnev and called the Stalin era "the totalitarian bureaucracy," thus putting the Communist Party and the socialist system in a false light. Such "openness," in fact, became the breaking point leading to the final collapse of the Soviet Union.

2. Widely promoting "democracy" and encouraging anarchism and social riots. At the 19th Plenary Assembly of the Soviet Communist Party, Gorbachev stated that the Soviet Union must implement an "unconditional democracy." The promotion of such "democratization" resulted in mass gatherings, the surge of demonstrations, frequent rallies of political dissidents, and the founding of various unofficial organizations, which jumped from 30,000 in December of 1987 to over 90,000 in 1990. These unofficial organizations aggressively held anti-communist and anti-socialist rallies. Later they united to become various political parties, waging a war to gain control from the Soviet Communist Party.

3. Arduously advocating "pluralism" and denying the guidance of Marxism and Leninism. Gorbachev wanted various publications to be "filled with pluralism," and proposed to "abandon spiritual monopoly." Introducing pluralism into the ideological sphere, he allowed the rampage of bourgeois freedom, thus thus leading to pluralism with regard to the guiding thoughts and to chaos with regard to the idealogy both inside and outside the Communist Party. In the meantime, Marxism and Leninism were subject to vicious attacks. Grigoriy Yakovlev, an assistant close to Gorbachev and also a member of the Political Bureau of the Soviet Communist Party, said publicly, "Marxism finally has led us to destruction, backwardness, and degeneration of morality," and "deep in its genes, communism consists of original sins." As the facts proved later, denying Marxism and Leninism resulted in the destruction of the theoretical foundation of the Communist Party and the socialist system, and in the destruction of the ideological guarantee of a multinational unitary country. This is one of the very reasons that led to the dramatic change and collapse of the Soviet Union.

4. Sparing no effort in pushing "fundamental reform" of the political system and introducing the Western-style political model. Gorbachev preached the "three-branch theory" and "free elections," and stressed "parliamentary democracy," the "multi-party system," and "presidential accountability," which all targeted the Communist Party and the socialist system. In particular, the "multi-party system" was actually to encourage the anti-communist and anti-socialist forces to become more organized and united in fighting against the (Soviet) Communist Party for power. In February of 1991, there were 20 nationwide parties in the Soviet Union, and over 500 political parties at the republic level, most of which were against the Communist Party and socialism. Right before the August 19th Incident, the Soviet Communist Party had already lost its power and become the opposition party in seven of its republics and in a number of important cities. Later the anti-communist forces continued to take power, the Soviet Communist Party fell to its knees, and the socialist system was completely destroyed.{mospagebreak}

5. Greatly ignoring ethnic issues and turning a blind eye to national separatism. As a multi-ethnic republican country consisting of over 100 ethnic groups, the Soviet Union had very complicated ethnic relationships, with Russians accounting for 51 percent of the total population. Initially Gorbachev did not pay much attention to ethnic issues, because he frequently reiterated the view of Leonid Brezhnev, and stressed, "The Soviet Union has destroyed various forms and representations of ethnic oppression and ethnic issues." As national separatism rapidly spread and more republics declared independence, Gorbachev, instead of taking immediate measures to stop the spread of separatism, left it alone and conceded step by step. In the three drafts of the new Union Treaty he proposed, he made further concessions from deleting the terms "Socialist" and "Soviet," to emphasizing the "sovereignty rights" of various republics, and ruling that the new country would be a confederation instead of a federation. In spite of his concessions, the Soviet Union embarked on the road leading to separation.

6. Extensive implementation of "complete innovations," which, step by step, brought the Communist Party to its end. Instead of relying on the Soviet Communist Party to reform, Gorbachev took the Party as the enemy of the reform. He targeted the reform directly at the Communist Party, claiming that, "in decades, the Soviet Communist Party has been the servant of the totalitarian bureaucracy." Not only did he confuse the minds of many Party members, but he also fired veteran leaders group by group, and rebuilt the leadership structure of the Party at his own will. At the 28th Plenary Assembly of the Soviet Communist Party, Gorbachev further altered the characteristics of the Communist Party and abandoned the Party’s principle of centralized democracy, which led the Soviet Union to organizational division. Additionally, after the August 19th Incident, he published a statement as President of the Soviet Union, announcing his resignation as General Secretary of the Soviet Communist Party Central Committee and asking the Central Committee to dissolve itself. Step by step, he destroyed the Soviet Communist Party.

7. Thoroughly denying the class struggle in the world and fostering Western countries’ strategy of peaceful transformation. While the "New Thinking" diplomacy that Gorbachev put forward corrected the mistakes of expansion and hegemony in the past, he went to the other extreme by taking as the core of his diplomatic policies "the interest of humankind first" and by completely denying the objective existence of class struggles around the globe. Gorbachev stressed to "eliminate the confrontation between the two major social systems," cooperated with Western nations to peacefully transform the Soviet Union, acquiesced to the interference of Western countries in the internal matters of a socialist country, and supported the anti-communist forces. All of these won him high praise from the Western countries. As former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher said in her speech on January 1, 1999, "the dramatic changes in Eastern Europe are attributed to Gorbachev and Gorbachev should be commended." On December 25, 1991, the U.S. government issued a written statement, speaking highly of the achievements of the Gorbachev era. In a public speech, President George Bush said, "the recent incident (the collapse of the Soviet Union) obviously is in the interest of our country." Former U.S. President Ronald Regan also said, "Gorbachev will be remembered forever."{mospagebreak}

As shown above, the erroneous course of Gorbachev’s reform was indeed the critical reason behind the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Gorbachev, however, never acknowledges his mistakes. On the eve of the fall of the State and Party, Gorbachev made a speech on December 14, 1991, feeling at ease and justified. He said, "The main purpose of my life has been accomplished and I’m feeling peaceful." In his book, The August Coup, Gorbachev states, "Somebody asked me what I would have chosen if I were able to return to the spring of 1985. ‘I would have taken the same path without any hesitation,’ I answered." This is the true Gorbachev.

Translated by CHINASCOPE

Wang Zhenquan is a professor at the College of International Relations, People’s University of China.

Hu Jintao: No Yeltsin Allowed in China

On May 19, 2005, the Communist Party held a conference about suppressing grassroots human rights movements and preventing color revolution1 in China. At the conference, Hu Jintao, the Chairman of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) Central Committee, emphatically stated, "Do not create moral leaders [in China]; do not create a ‘Yeltsin,’ a ‘Havel,’ a ‘Walesa’ or an ‘Aung San Suu Kyi.’"

Recently there has been a heated discussion on the Internet based on a long speech published by a well-known scholar of Agriculture—Wen Tiejun. In his article, Wen Tiejun asserted, "Only through state ownership of land and banks can China remain stable." He revealed the background of the CCP Central Committee’s decision on strengthening the Party’s capability to stay in power, a resolution passed at the Chinese Communist Party’s Fourth Plenary Session of the 16th Central Committee on September 4, 2005. Wen Tiejun also reintroduced the outdated "Hu-Wen New Administrative Policy," and strongly criticized mainstream scholars who believe in privatization, a market economy, liberalism, and globalization.

Wen Tiejun concluded that the CCP should strengthen its control on leadership, and should not promote U.S.-style political reform for democracy. He recommended, "The Party-in-Power needs to strengthen the capability of implementing its policies and pay special attention to preventing political risks that were raised in a closed-door meeting last year."

"What are these political risks?" Wen answered his rhetorical question: "First, some people want to promote U.S.-style democracy, yet there are no movers and shakers to promote it. More than 90 percent of government officials receive incomes that cannot be explained clearly, especially those in key decision-making positions. This problem is more severe than we expected. Can we expose them all? We cannot. Can we expect these officials to carry out the government’s policies with even-handedness? We cannot do that either. Secondly, most of China’s professionals and intellectuals have extra income in addition to their salaries. No tax is withheld from this income. The rule is that the more famous the scholars are, the more likely they will make extra income that, most likely, involves tax evasion. Whether these people really pay taxes on their extra income is a widespread problem. Thirdly, numerous business owners in the private sector are involved in some kind of illegal activities. Since the middle class in a society consists mainly of government officials, business owners and professionals, the Chinese middle-class people are problematic. How can we form a fair political system based on their support? The answer is that we cannot. Therefore, the only choice now is to strengthen the CCP’s monopoly on power to maintain stability."

The explanation above is a vivid description of the CCP’s bottom line: The CCP’s political agenda is indeed to focus on strengthening its own power to maintain stability, and in the process, to protect the "elite groups," not the people.{mospagebreak}

Grassroots Movements for Human Rights in Guangdong

On January 6, 2006, in the Sixth all-member Conference of the CCP’s Central Disciplinary Committee, Hu Jintao made it clear, saying: "We have to place great emphasis on big incidents that damage people’s interests, and seriously investigate these high-impact incidents that cause great harm to the people." Hu’s speech stirred up sentiments against Guangdong Province Party boss Zhang Dejiang, right after the Shanwei Massacre (at the end of last year, in which the military opened fire on villagers protesting eminent domain). There was a great deal of speculation about "Chasing out Zhang" and "Removing Zhang from his post." For a while, it was a favorite topic among many Chinese people.

Even so, after the Shanwei Massacre and the CCP’s Sixth Conference of the Central Disciplinary Committee, the Guangdong government regime continued to launch large-scale bloody crackdowns on farmers. On January 14, 2006, over 10,000 farmers from the Sanjiao Township, Zhongshan City, who had lost their land, gathered at the intersection of a national highway and the Beijing-Zhuhai highway to protest. The regime authorities dispatched 2,000 armed policemen with high-pressure water canons, tear gas, batons, and belts to suppress the protest. An eyewitness described that the police "beat up everyone they saw; they even dragged people out of their homes to beat them. After the beating, they threw the injured people into police vans." About 60 villagers were injured and sent to the hospital; over 100 were arrested. One would wonder who gave Zhang Dejiang a "license to kill," as he dared to launch one bloody crackdown after another!

The Chinese official media remain silent about the Shanwei incident. Recently, a deputy chief editor of a state-controlled newspaper complained to some retired media executives. He sarcastically commented, "The CCP Central Propaganda Department’s control over newspapers today is the best demonstration of the agency’s vision on ‘scientific development’ (a popular phrase used to illustrate China’s modernization)." The secret visit by Kim Jong Il serves as a good example. Many people saw him and many hosted him; Hong Kong and international media followed him closely. But in the meantime, the Chinese Foreign Ministry and media covered up Kim’s visit and did not reveal it to the public. Instead of "rule by law," this is a practice of "rule by lies." The only people deceived are the Chinese people who paid for Kim Jong Il’s luxurious tour of China. The CCP regime and its media are making a fool out of themselves in front of the international media.

Hu’s Three Key Points to Crack Down On Civil Rights Movements

At the Fourth Plenary Conference in 2004, the CCP launched a systematic campaign to suppress civil rights protests, one of which was by the Shanwei Massacre.{mospagebreak}

Hu Jintao’s speech in the closing session of the CCP’s Fourth Plenary Conference was the declaration of his political agenda after he acquired leadership of the CCP, the Chinese government and the Chinese military. Later he wrote to the Central Propaganda Department before they cascaded his speech down the Party hierarchy, "In ideology, we have to learn from Cuba and North Korea. Even though North Korea’s economy suffers from temporary difficulties, their political direction is always correct." This statement shows that Hu, the new Party boss, finally decided that it’s time to learn from Mao Zedong as he has now secured his power in the CCP.

On May 19, 2005, in his speech at a Politburo meeting focused on the topic of "Keeping Party Members’ Advanced Nature," Hu Jintao raised the following points: "To fight a smokeless people’s war, to stop the U.S. and European countries from launching color revolution in China’s neighboring countries, and to smash the U.S. attempt to start a color revolution in China." In this speech, Hu issued three strict orders:

1) Tightly control all media in China

2) Tightly control "four types of people," namely, those who promote liberalism, human rights activists, Falun Gong practitioners, and NGOs

3) Decontaminate and adjust the publishing companies in China. Hu said, "We should find out about all human rights activities in their infancy and eliminate them; we should never allow anyone to use citizens’ rights to challenge the Party."

In July 25, 2005, in a Politburo meeting on preparing for the Fifth Party Plenary Conference in October, Hu Jintao reiterated the decision to tightly control and attack the "four types of people." He also further clarified his position on civil rights incidents throughout China: "We need to have two preparations. On economic issues, we should make a best effort to compromise and resolve; but on political issues, we will not go soft; we must abolish all such activities with strong measures; never let them have any kind of influence." Hu’s speech is a clear signal to escalate the crackdown on human rights movements.

Hu’s speeches in the above-mentioned conferences were cascaded to the provincial level as the CCP’s official documents. The summarized version of the May 19 speech was distributed at the county level. Some people said that Hu’s political instructions could not go beyond Beijing, as they were concerned about the inefficiencies of implementing his instructions. Yet when it comes to a totalitarian command, it goes all the way down to the grassroots level. On June 28, People’s Daily, a Chinese official newspaper, published a commentary in support of Hu’s speech, in which the author took the strict control of Deng Xiaoping’s "iron-fist political theory" a step further. The commentary emphasized, "Development is the direction that will not be changed; so is stability." Now Hu Jintao, the top boss, is giving a green light to all communist officials at different levels to crack down on civil rights movements. Government officials will certainly follow this order.{mospagebreak}

Emerging Social Instability

Around the time of the Fifth Party Plenary Conference in October 2005, the regime’s crackdown on civil rights movements was at a peak. There were fierce life-or-death struggles occurring at different levels in China. On one side, there were government officials and interests groups; on the other side, there were farmers and unemployed workers. In every sale of a state-owned company, or construction of a power plant, officials at the provincial, county, township, and village level could pocket huge profits of up to 100 million yuan (US$12.5 million). The investors might make even more. With that much money at stake, no wonder these powerful people gave orders for the armed policemen to beat the farmers and workers in order to silence them.

On December 20, 2005, Li Deshui, the National Bureau of Statistics director, gave the media the following information from the first national economic survey in 2004: GDP increased by 16.8 percent, or 16 trillion yuan (US$2.0 trillion). This means China’s economy surpassed that of Italy and became number six in the world. Based on this great leap forward, in 2005, China’s economy was expected to pass that of the U.K. and France and become number four. Since Hu Jintao came to power, China’s economy grew over nine percent each year, unlike the situation in Jiang Zemin’s era when the economic growth was quite volatile. Such high-speed growth can be called China’s new Great Leap Forward.

On the other hand, Professor Sun Liping of Tsinghua University pointed out, "In the areas of education, medical care, or housing reform, every time we introduce a reform that touches the interests of a majority of the people, the situation evolves into a war for ripping off money and people’s benefits." According to Professor Sun, "In the past 10 years, China’s Gini Coefficient2 reached between 0.53 to 0.54; urban income was six times greater than that in rural areas. When we pushed the reform to a deeper level, 60 million employees of state-owned or collective-own enterprises lost their jobs; 40 million peasants completely lost their land, or owned less than one acre of land; 70 million stock holders lost total 1.5 trillion yuan (US$190 billion) in the stock market; 150 million urban residents lost their social welfare benefits."

It was reported that three retired (colonel level) military officers—Duan Jiazhen, Meng Zhigang, and Xiao Shuanhus—established a National Retired Military Officers’ Human Rights Service Center, and planned to mobilize more than 10,000 retired soldiers to appeal in Beijing in 2006, organize a 100,000-person demonstration in 2007, and have 10,000 people collectively announce their quitting the Chinese Communist Party in Tiananmen Square in 2008.

On October 31, 2005, the General Office of the CCP Central Committee, and the General Office of the Central Military Commission jointly issued a report titled "Investigation of the National Retired Military Officers Human Rights Service Center" (The Investigation), in which they claimed that the authorities "broke the case" and arrested the three men. Their case was handed to prosecutors for trial.{mospagebreak}

On November 10, 2005, the General Office of the CCP Central Committee, the CCP’s International Department, the Foreign Ministry, the Public Security Ministry, the National Security Ministry and Ministry of Civil Affairs issued a jointly sponsored document entitled "The Working-Directives on Strengthening the Management of NGO Activities (The Working-Directives)." The document stipulated that:

1) Anti-China forces and media outside of China have never ceased their effort to westernize China in order to disintegrate China. Recently they have intensified their effort to nurture and support agents of Western countries and political opponents in China.

2) These overseas organizations use human rights as an excuse to support rights groups and disadvantaged groups in China in order to intensify China’s internal conflict.

3) They take advantage of China’s internal conflict and sabotage China with a false claim [of helping Chinese NGO activities].

The Investigation document was cascaded to lower government agencies with Hu Jintao’s approval. The Working-Directives was written based on Hu Jintao’s speeches at the Fourth Plenary Conference on May 19, 2005. Hu used Yeltsin, Havel, Walesa and Aung San Suu Kyi as examples of "agents of the West" to emphasize his point of not creating social leaders such as Yeltsin in China.

The Shanwei Massacre occurred in this political environment. In their article published in Qiu Shi magazine’s (a CCP official publication) January issue, Commander Wu Shuangzhan and Political Commissar Sui Mingtai of the Armed Police Forces revealed Hu Jintao’s expectations of them as well as of the Armed Police. Hu Jintao asked China to develop an armed police force that can "tackle sudden incidents, a powerful army ready to fight." The two top police officers’ understanding of "tackling sudden incidents" was that "the armed police should improve their capability, from dealing with everyday incidents to handling large-scale mass movements." Today, one million armed police have their guns pointed at landless farmers, unemployed workers, and the urban homeless.

Who Is Responsible?

Hong Kong media revealed that, when the Central Disciplinary Committee Conference gave Zhang Dejiang a performance assessment, he failed due to his evasive tactics and his dishonesty. Zhang’s behavior was totally predictable: He has support from the top, which gives him the best defense. How can he not use it? The consequence was that someone else had to be blamed. A deputy police head of a county was charged. Similar results occurred with the recent Songhua River water pollution incident. Xie Zhenhua, the director of the China Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) became a scapegoat for this accident.{mospagebreak}

On January 16, 2006, the CCP Central Committee held a working session to discuss Hu Jintao’s call for "Launching a Marxist Theory Research and Development Program." Li Changchun gave a speech, in which he claimed that the program is "a strategic campaign to consolidate the Party’s ruling position." On Mao Zedong’s birthday on December 26, 2005, the China Academy of Social Sciences formed the Marxist Theory Research Institute. Hu approved a 2.5 billion yuan (US$310 million) grant for this 200-member institute. It is reported that the first installment of 500 million yuan has already been transferred to the institute.

Now Zhang Dejiang’s future has become a hot topic. Where he is sent will be an indication of the direction in which Hu wants to lead China.

Adapted and translated by CHINASCOPE from Kaifang Magazine (Hong Kong), February issue, 2006

[1] See Wikepedia at Color revolutions or Flower revolutions are the names given collectively to a series of related movements that developed in post-communist societies in Central and Eastern Europe and are possibly spreading elsewhere including some places in the middle east. Their participants use mostly nonviolent revolutionary change to protest against governments seen as entrenched and authoritarian, and to advocate democracy, liberalism, and national independence. They usually also adopt a specific color or flower as their symbol, and the protests are notable for the important role of NGOs and particularly student activist organizations in organizing creative nonviolent resistance.
So far these movements have been successful in Serbia (the 2000 downfall of Milošević), Georgia (the 2003 Rose Revolution), Ukraine (the 2004 Orange Revolution), and Kyrgyzstan (the 2005 Tulip Revolution). Each time massive street protests followed disputed elections and led to the resignation or overthrow of leaders considered by their opponents to be authoritarian.
[2] Wikepedia: "It is a number between 0 and 1, where 0 corresponds to perfect equality (e.g., everyone has the same income) and 1 corresponds to perfect inequality (e.g., one person has all the income, and everyone else has zero income)." See: for a more detailed description.

So, You Think a Chinese Court Is a Court?

Whenever I discuss the "Rule of Law in China," I am reminded of the little third grade boy who was asked on an English examination to define "leprechaun." He wrote that "leprechauns are similar to fairies, elves, virgins, and other mythical creatures."

Similarly, the "Rule of Law" in China is also the stuff of mythology. It exists only in the minds of Paul Martin and assorted other Western politicians laboring under the delusion that if they wish it so, and say it is so, then it will become so.

More on the general topic of "Rule of Law" in China, in another article. But for our purposes, the point to be made here is that any foreign investor contemplating direct investment in China on the assumption that there is a functioning legal system in place to protect his/her investment acts at his peril, influenced by a serious misconception.

Arbitration Clauses: Avoiding the Disaster of Appearing in a Chinese "Court"

A foreign player entering the Chinese market on a contractual basis for the first time has two choices, insofar as disputes arising under his contract are concerned. When it comes to the dispute resolution clause in the contract, there is absolutely no rational choice whatever, as between allowing the matter to go before a Chinese "court" on the one hand, or opting for arbitration on the other hand. Without exception, every foreign joint venturer who has obtained competent legal advice will insist on the insertion of an arbitration clause in the contract. On no account will the "savvy" foreign player ever voluntarily come within a thousand miles of a Chinese "court."

The two choices for dispute resolution are: arbitration by a Chinese arbitration body, or arbitration abroad. In my view (and this is the advice I gave all my foreign investor clients over a period of 14 years of practice in China), this choice should always be exercised in favor of a foreign arbitration clause. I personally favored the Stockholm Chamber of Commerce, though the ICC, AAA, or any of several other popular alternatives would be acceptable. I have always advised that insistence by the Chinese party on arbitration in China should be treated as a "dealbreaker." The reasons for this, however, are somewhat ironic and take most clients by surprise. It is not because "everything in China is corrupt" and the Chinese arbitrators are as corrupt as are the Chinese "courts." In fact, they are not. Although some foreign lawyers specializing in Chinese legal matters have somewhat soured on practices of the China International Economic and Trade Arbitration Commission (CIETAC),* in recent years, the overall record of arbitrations before this body is quite good. The competence of CIETAC’s panel of arbitrators is very high and their awards have generally commanded respect. Moreover, if a foreign party is nervous about impartiality, he/she may choose a foreign arbitrator from among those on the CIETAC panel.{mospagebreak}

Quite aside from the pros or cons of resolving disputes in "courts" or before a panel of arbitrators, the fact is that no client really wants to do either, if there is any way the process can be avoided. Every business person prefers to settle disputes amicably through negotiation, if this is an option.

The first irony is found in the fact that I have more faith in the genuine impartiality of Chinese arbitrators than do most of the Chinese parties with whom I negotiated over the years on behalf of foreign investors. The Chinese parties typically assumed, incorrectly, that a Chinese arbitral body would perforce be as venal as are the Chinese "courts." Hence their faith in receiving a "home town decision" if the arbitration were to be heard in China. They could not conceive of the notion that a foreign party could win an award against them in "their own back yard." In reality, arbitration awards in China are often fair and impartial. But the contrary perception on the part of Chinese partners typically causes them to adopt a totally rigid stance, telling the foreign party to "take it or leave it," if the contract calls for Chinese arbitration. Hence, the chances of a friendly and reasonable compromise, obviating the need for arbitration, are greatly diminished.

The second irony is that it is easier to enforce a foreign arbitration award in China than it is to enforce a Chinese award. This appears incomprehensible on its face, but it is nevertheless true. (Enforcement of all arbitration awards in China is difficult, but it is much more so with domestic awards.) This seemingly astounding reality arises from the fact that China is a signatory to the New York Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards (the "New York Convention").

Any arbitration award, whether domestic or foreign, must be enforced by a Chinese "court" of competent jurisdiction in the locality in which the defendant is resident. One of the primary functions of Chinese "courts" is the practice of what is known as "local protectionism." Courts will characteristically safeguard the interests of powerful local economic entities, whether the opposite party be foreign or simply from another part of China. Consequently, the local "court" will simply "stonewall" any outside party seeking to enforce a Chinese arbitration award and the matter will languish there for years, or even decades, with no resolution. As a general rule, Chinese arbitration awards, though usually fair and impartial, are simply useless because no Chinese "court" will enforce them except in extraordinary circumstances.

The Chinese "courts" will of course attempt the same approach when confronted with a foreign arbitration award. And they do often delay execution for years. Because China is a signatory to the New York Convention, however, the applicant may be able to bring its own government on board for purposes of pressuring the Chinese government to ensure that Chinese "courts," at least in these narrow circumstances, act in accordance with law.{mospagebreak}

In the context of contractual disputes, therefore, the foreign joint venture partner has a modicum of control over the inherent and blatant unfairness and inequality he faces in any dispute with his Chinese partner. And if the foreign investor has opted to go the route of the Wholly Foreign Owned Enterprise (WFOE), then of course the problem of contractual disputes with Chinese partners does not arise.

But what is the situation in the event that the dispute arises in tort? Or under contracts for services or supplies?

This is one of the most timely and acutely important questions that foreign investors in China need to address at the present time. Yet it is a question that has never been addressed to date, to the best of my knowledge. Why should this be? The answer would appear to be two-fold.

First, the Canadian business community is continuously assured by Paul Martin that the Chinese Government is seriously committed to implementing the "Rule of Law," that tremendous progress has been made on that front, and that the Chinese "Judicial" system is making progress.

Second, very few foreign investors have yet had the unfortunate experience of appearing as defendants in a Chinese "court." Probably fewer yet have chosen to enter a Chinese "court" as a plaintiff seeking redress against a Chinese entity. Let us address each of these factors in sequence.

PM Paul Martin’s China Fantasy

With respect to the first point, Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin is doing his business constituents a serious disservice by perpetuating a picture that has no basis whatsoever in fact. (To be fair, many other leaders of Western democracies are guilty of doing the same thing.) Far from being committed to implementation of the "Rule of Law," the Chinese Government is in reality fundamentally, absolutely, and irrevocably committed to preventing the Rule of Law at whatever cost necessary. Their rationale is not difficult to fathom. China now is governed by the Communist Party’s absolute and untrammeled monopoly of power at all levels. This includes the "judicial system." It is totally impossible for any Chinese "court" to override any act or policy of the Party. Party and Government leaders regularly and routinely instruct judges at the Supreme Court level on the judgment they shall give in any case affecting the Party or Government. "Courts" are simply very low-level administrative organs of the Chinese Communist Party.{mospagebreak}

The Rule of Law, if ever implemented in China, would quite simply end the total dictatorship of the Party and destroy its monopoly of power. Many aspects of contemporary China are complex and difficult to analyze or understand; this is not one of those aspects. The Chinese Government/Party has made it abundantly clear in a myriad ways that it will brook no threat to or limitation on its power and it ruthlessly crushes any person or organization that publicly questions the legitimacy of the government or even the legitimacy of a particular law or policy. Neither in law, nor in practice, is there a shred of independence in the Chinese "judiciary." That issue will be explained elsewhere.

Turning to the second point, why is it that foreign investors have to this point almost never found themselves before a Chinese "court" and why is that situation likely to change markedly in the near future?

Extortion of Foreigners by Chinese Maritime "Courts"

At least 95 percent (and possibly 99 percent) of all Chinese litigation involving a foreign party has up to now taken place in the Chinese Maritime "Courts." The reason for this is that foreign shipowners do not have the luxury of relying on foreign jurisdiction clauses, as do foreign investors. The mechanism through which a foreign shipowner finds itself in the grasp of the Chinese Maritime "Court" is that of an arrest by a Chinese cargo owner. The Chinese party arrests the vessel, then files a claim with the local "court" and demands a substantial bank guarantee, usually naming the "court" as beneficiary, as a condition precedent for lifting the arrest order and allowing the vessel to sail. The shipowner is in no position to politely decline the jurisdiction of the Chinese "court" in favor of foreign arbitration.

Theoretically, the position of the shipowner should not differ in any respect from that of the foreign investor negotiating a joint venture contract. Of course, if the claim arises in tort as a result of a collision, allision, grounding, oil spill, etc., then there is no relevant contract and jurisdiction clauses do not arise. But the overwhelming majority of Chinese claims against the owners of foreign vessels in fact are cargo claims arising under a contract for the carriage of goods by sea. Such contracts are evidenced in bills of lading which in the overwhelming majority of cases contain foreign jurisdiction clauses. The majority of those clauses call for arbitration in foreign countries, though some specify the jurisdiction of a foreign court.

Chinese black letter law specifically requires the "courts" to recognize and give effect to foreign jurisdiction clauses in bills of lading. Moreover, there are several publicized directives from the Supreme Court of China to all the Maritime "Courts" throughout the country, emphasizing that unless there is a lack of reciprocity in a specific case (i.e., the country specified in the bill of lading would not recognize a Chinese jurisdiction clause in a Chinese bill of lading), the Maritime "Courts" should always give effect to a foreign jurisdiction clause which is included on the face of the bill, is clearly drafted, and which names a specific arbitration body or court. So there should be no problem.{mospagebreak}

There is a problem. The problem is that Chinese "courts" and "judges" for the most part pay no attention to the law and often do not even consult it in the course of the judgment process. Nowhere is this more patent that in the Maritime "Courts’" treatment of foreign jurisdiction clauses. The law, and the directives of the Supreme Court, dictate that such clauses should almost always be honored; the Maritime "Courts" never honor foreign jurisdiction clauses and they assume jurisdiction in all cases. In a subsequent Practice Note, I shall examine the creative, bizarre, and totally dishonest rationales usually put forward by the Maritime "Courts" as reasons for their routine dismissal of any foreign defendant’s application for a stay of proceedings on the basis of a foreign jurisdiction clause.

Having assumed jurisdiction for bogus reasons, and contrary to Chinese law, the Maritime "Courts" proceed inexorably in virtually 100 percent of cases to judgment in favor of the Chinese plaintiff, irrespective of what expert evidence and argument may be adduced on behalf of the foreign defendant. In a huge percentage of these cases, the claims are completely fraudulent and constitute an organized mechanism, with the collusion of the "courts," for extorting huge sums from the foreign shipping community in order to recover trading losses incurred on the world commodity market. I shall provide examples of this at a later point. Those claims which are not totally devoid of legitimacy are almost always grossly inflated. Yet the "courts" usually give judgment in the full amount of the plaintiffs claim.

Risk of Chinese "Courts" Imminent Reality for Foreign Investors

Why have foreign investors fared so much better than foreign shipowners? And why is the situation likely to change, with foreign investors experiencing the same "judicial" outrages so familiar for so long to the foreign shipping community? It is Chinese policy to treat Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) with "kid gloves." China is totally unconcerned and uninfluenced by foreign attempts to force reforms, (whether in the area of human rights or legal reform or other areas), with only one exception. China’s Achilles Heel is any threat to the continuous flow of FDI. Any bad press which could turn foreign investors away from China as a target jurisdiction for FDI causes great concern within the Beijing leadership.

Foreign ships will continue to carry the world’s produce to China regardless of how regularly they are fleeced by Chinese "courts"; at least for the foreseeable future, the losses will be reflected only in ever increasing insurance premiums borne by the international shipping community. Foreign investors are completely unaware of what happens to foreign shipowners in China, and if they were aware it is doubtful that they would care. If foreign arbitration clauses in SinoForeign joint venture contracts were to be routinely over-ridden by Chinese "courts" and the foreign parties then routinely separated from their cash and equipment, for the benefit of their Chinese partners, that would be a different matter. It would not take long for the flow of FDI to dry up.{mospagebreak}

However, many foreign joint venturers and WFOEs have been established in China now for twenty or more years. All these companies are Chinese corporate citizens and they cannot opt for foreign jurisdiction when their Chinese company enters into a contract with another Chinese company, for supplies and services, for marketing of products, for distribution, etc. Any dispute under such contracts will ultimately and inevitably be subject to the jurisdiction of the Chinese "courts."

Moreover, it will be increasingly common for foreign parties to be hauled into "court" to face actions in tort, rather than contract. Truck drivers employed by foreign corporations will inevitably be involved in accidents resulting in property damage to third parties or in personal injury and even death. Exploding or otherwise defective products will bring similar claims, on the basis of product liability. The Chinese Government will likely calculate, probably correctly, that victimization on the basis of such claims, which are extrinsic to the investments themselves, are unlikely to discourage the flow of FDI.

As foreign manufacturers operate in China for longer periods of time, that time period alone will inevitably result in an ever increasing flow of litigation against them. Moreover, Chinese society is rapidly becoming litigious. And a wide range of dishonest claimants will become increasingly aware of the huge largesse that cargo owners have amassed in partnership with the Maritime "Courts" through the extortion of the foreign shipping community.

Legal Extortion on a Grand Scale: The Great Soybean Scam by the Chinese "Judiciary"

Perhaps the most massive illustration of the "Rule of Law" as administered by Chinese "courts" is that of the "Soybean Cases," a long line of cases that wound their way through the Chinese Maritime "Courts" from the end of 1997 until 2003, and perhaps later. All these cases, numbering in the hundreds, stemmed from a single international event.

At the end of 1997, the bottom dropped out of the world price of soybean meal. Within a matter of days, the international price of this commodity dropped by between 16 percent and 25 percent, depending upon the country of origin, the color, and the type of soybean. At that time, a number of large Chinese import/export companies had purchased huge quantities of soybean meal internationally and their purchases were now in transit to China as bulk cargoes being carried by many foreign vessels. The cargoes were shipped from the Unites States, from South America, from India, and from several countries in Southeast Asia. They were all in transit at the time the market fell.{mospagebreak}

Hundreds of ships carrying soybean meal arrived at Chinese ports in December 1997 and January of 1998. Virtually all were arrested immediately upon arrival, by the Chinese cargo owners. The latter filed claims alleging "wet damage," damage from improper ventilation, and contamination of cargo. Frequently, allegations were also made that moisture content, fat content, ash content, and silica content exceeded contractual limits. All cargoes were surveyed by the China Commodities Inspection Bureau (CCIB), and this notoriously corrupt body uniformly produced survey reports upholding the claims of the Chinese cargo owners.

In the innumerable trials that followed, incontrovertible evidence of the top Chinese and foreign authorities in the relevant disciplines, was repeatedly introduced, proving conclusively that the CCIB reports were not only fraudulent, but in many cases their conclusions were actually scientifically impossible. However, Chinese Maritime "Courts" uniformly take the position that Chinese law requires them to accept the reports of CCIB. Foreign survey reports, or reports paid for by foreign defendants but carried out by other Chinese licensed surveyors are often put in evidence, but the "court" invariably says that it is bound by Chinese law to treat the CCIB report as conclusive. This is completely untrue and there is nothing in any Chinese statute to support the statement, but it is the position adopted by every Maritime "Court" in China.

In the end, every single one of these several hundred cases ended in a judgment for the Chinese claimant and in all cases the damages assessed ranged from 16 percent to 25 percent of the value of the cargo. Each judgment constituted a windfall for the Chinese claimant ranging from one to several million U.S. dollars.

The large Chinese import/export corporations which had purchased the commodity on the world market and then incurred instant and substantial losses all had downstream sales contracts with end users of the soybean meal. When the world market price went south, the end users all walked away from their contracts with the importers, pointing out that they could now purchase the product at a substantially reduced price. But the Chinese Government, "courts," and importers realized that there was no reason why Chinese corporations should have to suffer losses while trading in the international market place, when there was an endless queue of foreign vessels just waiting to be arrested and turned into "cash cows" which could be squeezed to make up for the losses.

We handled many of these cases on behalf of foreign insurers. In my next Practice Notes, I shall provide a number of actual experiences with Chinese "courts" while litigating not only the "soybean cases," but a wide variety of others as well. For now, I shall end with vignettes from my first soybean case and my last.{mospagebreak}

Comments on Two Soybean Cases

In the first case, which is well worth examining in its entirety later on, we had a rare experience right after the vessel had been arrested. We heard a conversation between the Chinese claimants and their lawyer, which took place in their hotel room. (I shall not take time here to explain, but we did not commit an ethical breach by listening). The representatives of the China National Foods, Cereals, and Oils Import Export Corporation were addressing the problem of "financing the case." Said one of them to their lawyer, "OK, 20,000 for the judge, 20,000 for the CCIB surveyor, and 20,000 for the stevedores who select the cargo samples for CCIB to survey." The irony is that the presiding judge whom they were preparing to pay need not have been bought. He was indeed one of the most corrupt judges in the Shanghai Maritime "Court," but in a case such as this he could not decide the outcome in any event. It would have to go to the invisible "Judicial Committee" in the back room and the party representative would decide how much the Chinese importer would receive. So, ironically, they were preparing to bribe the judge for something which he actually did not have the power to deliver!

The last case I handled before I left China at the end of May 2003 was a classic. China has learned that the appearance and trappings of judicial process are more important than the substance, for most foreign observers. Gone are the days when "judges" wore blue military uniforms and when the" court" was a dingy apartment in a tenement building. Now the "court" looks to all outward appearances just like a real court. "Judges" sit on a raised bench at the front and wear black robes, just like real judges. There are lawyers for each party; witnesses are called and cross-examined. And for the most part, the "trial" is solemnly conducted and an observer may be forgiven for thinking that the ‘judges" are actually absorbing the evidence. But in this last case of mine, in the Guangzhou Maritime "Court," no one even bothered with a pretense of due process.

This is the only case I have experienced, even in China, which opened with the defense. There were two claimants and each had a lawyer. Asked by the presiding "judge" if they would like to call evidence, each declined, stating that they were content to rely on the Statement of Claim they had filed to initiate the lawsuit. We then presented evidence from four experts over a period of two days. Two of these were the two most qualified men in their fields in all of China, one was from Hong Kong, and the fourth had been brought from Holland.

Not one of the three "judges" took a single note while the expert evidence was being tendered over two days. One judge spent the first day turned sideways in his chair, looking out the window and constantly craning his neck in an apparent attempt to take in some occurrence unfolding in the window of an adjacent building. On the second day, he faced forward and read newspapers throughout the proceedings. Meanwhile, the presiding judge alternately tilted far back in his reclining chair with his mouth wide open in a perpetual yawn, and leaned forward to play with his cell phone. The third judge actually showed some interest in the proceedings from time to time and asked a few questions. But, as noted, even he took no notes.{mospagebreak}

When we later asked the lawyer for one of the plaintiffs (an insurance company) to produce documentary evidence that the company had ever paid out under the policy, the lawyer was astounded. He could not produce a canceled check or documentary evidence of any kind proving any bank transaction involving payment. The claimant never did produce this evidence, but within three or four weeks the "court," to the surprise of no one, handed down "judgment" for the claimants in the full amount of their claim.

It was time for me to leave China.

* Still commonly know by this mane, but also know now as the foreign Economic and Trade arbitration Committee (FETAC).


[1] Clive M. Ansley, LL.B., 1980 (0. Windsor), LL.M., 1981 (University College London), was Bull, Housser & Tupper’s long-time Resident Partner in Shanghai until joining the London firm of Holman Fenwick & Willan in May of 2001. He practiced for a total of 14 years in Shanghai, and five years in Taibei.

Mr. Ansley has been actively involved with China and Sino-Canadian relations for more than 40 years. He speaks and reads Chinese and holds both undergraduate and graduate degrees in Chinese Studies from Canadian universities, as well as a graduate degree in Chinese Law from the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London.

A former Canadian professor of Chinese History, Civilization, and Law, Mr. Ansley taught Chinese Law for six years at the University of Windsor and the University of British Columbia. He also taught in the Law Faculty of Shanghai’s Fudan University in 1984 and still holds the title of Advising Professor at that institution. More recently, he taught International Economic Law at Shanghai’s Jiaotong University. Mr. Ansley has studied the new Chinese legal system since its inception in 1979, has published and lectured extensively on Chinese law, and has appeared in a number of foreign court and tribunal proceedings as a recognized expert on Chinese law.

Mr. Ansley established the first foreign law office in Shanghai in 1985 and ran that office until 1989 when he was reassigned first to Bull, Housser’s Hong Kong office, and then to its Taibei office. He returned to represent the firm in Shanghai once more in the summer of 1994 and practiced in Shanghai from that time until the end of May 2003. He is fully familiar with a wide range of Chinese law relating to the establishment of Sino-Foreign joint ventures and wholly owned subsidiaries in China.{mospagebreak}

Over the years, in addition to representing corporate and commercial clients, he has litigated more than 300 cases in China. His clients have come not only from Canada and the United States, but also from Britain, Germany, Norway, Sweden, Japan, Hong Kong, and Taiwan.

In April of 2003, Mr. Ansley joined Arvay Finlay, a prominent Canadian litigation firm renowned for its landmark victories in a number of human rights cases, but now practices as Ansley & Company. E-mail:

[2] The article was first published in Volume 6 Issue 3 of the Canadian International Lawyer (CIL), a law journal co-sponsored by the Canadian Bar Association and Ontario Bar Association. The article is reprinted with permission of CIL.

Business, Values, and Moral Traps: The Paradox of the Chinese Internet

The Internet business is booming in China. If you are thinking of jumping on the bandwagon and investing in the Chinese Internet, however, think twice before you take the plunge. Some large U.S. Internet companies have had their reputations tarnished after assisting the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) in the creation of China’s "Big Brother" Internet.
The number of Chinese Internet users in the past 10 years has increased from 0.6 million to 111 million, to become the second largest in the world after the United States. More than half of the Chinese Internet users, or 64.3 million, have broadband access. This fast growth and enormous market size have made China a hotspot for Internet investors and entrepreneurs. Chinese Internet stocks, such as Sina, NetEase, Sohu, Shanda, and Baidu, have made headlines in the American stock market, and the big American Internet companies have moved into China.

Figure 1: On January 17, 2006, China Internet Network Information Center issued its latest report. As of December 31, 2005, there were 111 million Internet users in China with 64 million using broadband; 694,000 websites; and 74,390,000 IP addresses. The number of computers with Internet connection was 49.5 million as of December 31, 2005.


If business meant only business, investment in China would be simple. But, besides the figures of growth rate and profit margin, Chinese cyberspace is also filled with value conflicts and intense struggles between the Chinese people and the ruling communist regime. When foreign companies are not sensitive to those issues, they may find their business inroads into the Chinese Internet have lead them into a shameful trap.

A recent highlight occurred during a February 15th U.S. Congressional hearing where representatives from four big U.S. Internet companies-Yahoo!, Google, Microsoft, and Cisco-faced tough questions from U.S. House Representatives. The focus was the assistance that the four American companies have provided to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) in the creation of China’s "Big Brother" Internet. The companies must have felt the heat when Congressman Tom Lantos from California, a Holocaust survivor with snow-white hair, turned to each representative from the four companies and asked directly, "Are you ashamed?"

The business stakes for those U.S. Internet companies are high, making it more than a simple shame game. Congressman Chris Smith, who is on the House Subcommittee on Africa, Global Human Rights, and International Operations, is considering introducing a legislation that bans key Internet technology exports to China. Chinese victims are considering liability lawsuits against American companies such as Yahoo! for assisting the CCP in tracking down and criminalizing Chinese activists on the Internet. Given the public outcry and the seriousness of the Congressional hearing, U.S. Internet companies have to reevaluate their operations and strategies in China. Should they continue their operations, should they scale down, or should they pull out of the China market totally?

Whatever decision they make, the key issue American companies must understand is that they are dealing with two different entities in China: the Chinese people and the CCP. The Chinese people eagerly embrace the Internet for the freedom it can offer. The CCP embraces the Internet as a tool for advancing its own power and control. Stuck in between, the American companies should stick to a simple principle: It is good to invest in the Chinese people but bad to trade principles for money with the CCP.

Internet as a Shortcut For Modernization

The first hybrid Internet in China was implemented in 1986 by Beijing Computer Application Technology Research Institute with Germany’s University of Karlsruhe as its cooperating partner. It was known as the Chinese Academic Network (CANET).[1]

In November 1989, the National Computing and Networking Facility of China (NCFC) was created with financing from the World Bank.{mospagebreak}

The Three Golden Projects

The Chinese communist government launched the "Three Golden Projects" in 1993 following the development of information technology worldwide. They are:

The Golden Bridge Project: The focus of this plan has been on information technology infrastructure development. Its goal is to construct an information expressway to cover the entire nation by using fiber optics, microwaves, satellite, and mobile technology, thereby linking ministry networks, 31 provinces, 500 central cities, and 12,000 large state-owned enterprises.

The Golden Gate Project: This project has been concerned with constructing a national economic trading information network by promoting an Electronic Data Exchange system.

The Golden Card Project: This scheme has focused on "electronic money" by promoting bankcards. It plans to use bank credit cards as ID cards that provide cardholders’ personal, financial, and criminal information. It has targeted more than 300 million people in 10 years.


The communist regime has an ambitious plan to modernize China—but only its technology, not its social values. Deng Xiaoping labeled it as "Chinese-style socialism," and it aims at being able to compete with the United States before the middle of the 21st century. The Internet as a new, emerging technology was seen as a shortcut that would enable China to leapfrog ahead. The communist regime was very anxious to get a foothold in the new technology, as illustrated by its "Three Golden Projects" plan.

In June 1992 in Japan, China met with the U.S. National Science Foundation and discussed how the NCFC could become Internet connected. China was reportedly advised that, due to the use of Internet by the U.S. government, there were political obstacles.

In early April 1994 in Washington, D.C., Mr. Hu Qiheng, Vice President of the China Academy of Science, reiterated China’s request to the National Science Foundation to be linked to the Internet. On April 20, 1994, the NCFC was connected to the Internet via Sprint.

Since then, the Internet has been the focal point of information technology in China. Its growth in terms of number of users has been exponential and will continue into the indefinite future.{mospagebreak}

Embrace the Unprecedented Freedom in Cyberspace

The Chinese people welcomed the Internet. In a country where the Communist Party controls the state media and publication industries, people suddenly found freedom in cyberspace. Chinese students studying in North America and Europe created several popular Chinese websites, and similar websites soon emerged in mainland China. As of December 2005, China boasted 694,000 websites and 74,390,000 IP addresses, according to the China Internet Network Information Center. These websites largely contain personal creations, stories, jokes, pictures, and all sorts of information. If the Internet provides an inexpensive means of self-expression and information sharing for everyone in the world, it was a particular experience of freedom for the Chinese, at least before the CCP began to tightly censor the Internet.

One example is the discussion of the Cultural Revolution—the decade-long nationwide catastrophe brought about by the CCP. Many lessons can be and should be learned from the Cultural Revolution, but the CCP does not allow serious discussion on the subject. In cyberspace, however, volunteers have set up a virtual museum of the Cultural Revolution ( in an effort to collect and preserve evidence, stories, and memories.

Email has been particularly valuable for the Chinese, enabling them to share information that the CCP tries to conceal from them. One example is the popularity of an email newsletter called VIP Reference (Dacankao). Richard Long, a Chinese student in America, started the newsletter in 1997. The newsletter collects news and information that the CCP censors, and then emails the items to mainland China. In 1999 VIP Reference sent uncensored political news to 250,000 Chinese email addresses.

When the CCP started to persecute Falun Gong in July 1999, the state-sponsored media was filled with defamation and accusation. In cyberspace, however, Falun Gong practitioners and supporters managed to communicate among themselves and clarify the truth to others. Through emails, stories about the state brutality find their way overseas. Those stories are then posted on the Falun Gong websites operating overseas to be read by people all over the world.

A more recent example is how an internal memo posted on the morning of August 15, 2005, by Li Datong, a senior editor at China Youth Daily in Beijing, spread on the Internet like wildfire. The memo criticized CCP propaganda and a plan to link reporters’ pay to feedback from the CCP. Minutes after he posted it, people in the newsroom began copying and sending it to friends via email and the instant messaging programs used by more than 81 million Chinese.{mospagebreak}

In the weiquan movement—the Chinese people’s human rights movement—the Internet has been the most important channel of informing the public about human rights abuses and connecting people from different regions. On February 4, 2006, human rights attorney Gao Zhisheng started a hunger strike in protest of the violence against rights activist Guo Fexion by Guangdong police. As the news spread over the Internet, tens of thousands of people all over the world responded and joined in the hunger strike, including students in Lanzhou University, Jiangsu Province, who learned of the hunger strike from the online version of The Epoch Times. The arrest of these students prompted another wave over the Internet throughout the universities in China. Now, a "blue ribbon" movement in support of these students is unfolding.

Big Brother Would Not Give Up Control

The communist regime has implemented a two-prong strategy: content censorship through China law and law enforcement, and the monitoring and control of emails and Web access through technology.

Law and Regulations

Laws and regulations in China have been an integral part of the state apparatus used by the CCP to maintain control. Of the numerous laws and regulations, the website of the Ministry of Information Industry of China posts three Internet regulations issued by the China State Council: "Regulations on the Administration of Internet Access Service Business Establishments," Decree No. 363, September 15, 2002; "Foreign Investment in Telecommunication and Information Administration Regulations," Decree No. 333, December 11, 2001; and "Measures for the Administration of Internet Information Services," Decree No. 292, September 25, 2000.[2]

These rules regulate both the access providers and the Internet users. They require ISPs (Internet Service Providers) to implement measures for monitoring information on the Internet. Access providers operating in "strategic and sensitive areas"—news and forum sites in particular—must now register and record information about visitors to these sites, such as their Internet access IDs, their postal addresses, and their telephone numbers. Such records must be made available for police inspection. To monitor the content of messages sent by Internet users, the access providers must install software to monitor and copy the contents of "sensitive" email messages. The 10 prohibited topics include those containing "subversive" content, those damaging national images, those advocating religions, and those disrupting social order or otherwise posing a threat to "national security and unity." Authors of such messages must be immediately reported to the authorities. In addition, foreign companies selling software in China are required to certify themselves in writing to say they will not install spy systems on Chinese computers.{mospagebreak}

In a January 2006 interview, Su Jinsheng, Director of the Telecommunications Office of China’s Ministry of Information Industry, emphasized that the Ministry will coordinate with "relevant content regulating agencies" to "monitor online content."[3]

Police Enforcement

The enforcement of the laws and regulations are carried out by 30,000 to 50,000 Internet police. In late February 2001, the Ministry of Public Security released new software designed to keep "cults, sex, and violence" off the Internet in China. The software known as "Internet police 110" was named for China’s emergency police telephone number. It was developed to block access to certain websites to "prevent users from getting unhealthy information from foreign and domestic websites." The software has been used in Internet cafes to monitor Web traffic. It can also delete or block messages from sources deemed offensive.[4]

Internet police can reportedly trace the activities of the users without their knowledge and monitor their online activities by various technical means. Most commonly used techniques include domain name hijacking, keyword filtering, and IP address blocking.

Chinese Internet companies have been complying with the law in self-censorship. IT analyst Fang Xingdong established, China’s largest blog platform, in August 2002. According to reports, Fang says his company uses a list of keywords to catch illicit postings. He declined to list his company’s keywords. Ten of Fang’s nearly 400 employees are tasked with trolling for what the keyword filters have missed.

On July 29, 2000, Zhang Haitao, a computer scientist and creator of the only China-based Falun Gong website, was arrested five days after the authorities tracked and banned his site. On October 11, 2000, in Changchun, Jilin Province, he was indicted for "subversion" and for promoting Falun Gong on the Internet. He had previously published an online petition against the communist persecution of the spiritual movement.{mospagebreak}

Internet Users in China Arrested – A Partial List

Name Occupations Date Arrested
Hao Wu Blogger and documentary film-maker Feb. 22, 2006
Changing Li Journalist for Fuzhou Daily Jan. 25, 2006
Tianshui Yang On-line journalist Dec. 23, 2005
Yuanlong Li Journalist for the Bijie Ribao Sept. 29, 2005
Jiangping Li Freelance journalist, entrepreneur May 28, 2005
Tao Shi Cyber dissident April, 2005
Lin Zhang Pro-democracy activist Jan. 29, 2005
Yichun Zheng, Yuanhua Liao, Youping Kong, Jingqiu Huang, Zhi Li, Haidong Tao, Yongzhong Luo, Qunwei Huang, Yuxiang Zhang, Zengqi Lu, Shumin Chen, Yan Yin, Jian Li, Qiuyan Yan, Lijun Jiang, Depu He, Changqing Zhao, Lifa Han, Changying Liang, Jianli Yang, Dawei Li, Qiu Tan, Gupkun Fang, Hongmin Li, Sen Wang, Zili Yang, Haike Jin, Wei Xu, Honghai Zhang, Yuhui Zhang, Yanfang Li, Yuxia Jiang, Chunyan Li, Kui Huang, Yan Ma, Yang Lin, Haitao Zhang, Xianbin Liu, Yufu Zhu, Yilong Wu, Qingxiang Mao (occupations and dates arrested omitted)

In a more recent example, on February 9, 2006, Li Yuanlong, a 46-year-old mainland China journalist with the Bijie Daily newspaper in southwestern Guizhou Province, was charged with inciting subversion for posting politically sensitive essays on the Internet through his Hotmail email account.

The February 9, 2006, the criminal complaint filed by the Office of the Procurator in Guizhou Province read as follows (English translation):

"Defendant Li Yuanlong purchased a Legend computer in May 2004 and registered an online account at the Bijie Branch of the Guizhou Mobile Telecom Company on February 5, 2005. Li Yuanlong later frequented overseas websites using Freegate and UltraReach software. Between May and August 2005, under the name of Ye Lang or ‘yehaolang,’ Li Yuanlong published from his email account on the websites of New Century, Boxun, Qingxing Forum, Epoch Times, Yibao, Reminbao, Secret China, and etc., four articles, including ‘On Becoming a U.S. Citizen in Spirit,’ ‘The Commonplace of Living and Sadness of Death,’ ‘The CCP Party Secretary Who Continued His Meeting While His 80-Year-Old Mother Died,’ and ‘A Talk about a 100-Year-Old Codger Joining the CCP.’ Li Yuanlong cooked up, distorted, and exaggerated facts and incited subversion of State sovereignty to overthrow the socialist system."{mospagebreak}

State security agents picked up Mr. Li at his office on September 9, 2005, and he has been in detention ever since.

According to Reporters Without Borders, China has at least 62 Internet dissidents behind bars—more than any other country.

Technology: Golden Shield and the Great Firewall of China

Golden Shield is the latest "Golden Project" that aims at control and censure of the Chinese Internet. It was launched in November 2000, and its first function is to filter and censor every email traveling in Chinese cyberspace. Its overall purpose is much broader: to integrate a gigantic online database with a comprehensive surveillance network, incorporating speech and face recognition, closed-circuit television, smart cards, credit records, and Internet surveillance technologies. To censor and filter Internet communication between the Chinese Internet and the rest of the world, the communist regime erected the Great Firewall of China.

Isaac Mao, one of China’s pioneering bloggers, developed a conceptual model of this "Great Firewall." Soon after he posted it at his blog site,, in July 2005, the Chinese authorities blocked his site. His site remains blocked to date.

Figure 2 shows the Internet blocking mechanism.

Figure 2: The Internet blocking mechanism of the Great Firewall of China. (Courtesy of Global Information Freedom, Inc.)


At each gateway, in simplified terms the blocking takes place as follows:

1. A user submits a URL (web address) in the browser.
2. The network checks a URL blacklist database to see if the requested URL is on the list. If it is, the user sees an "operation time out" error message or is re-directed to a government approved website. If not, the requested URL passes to the Internet outside China.
3. Upon entering the gateway, the return web page is then checked against a keyword content filter. If the page contains blacklisted words, the user gets an "operation time out" error message or a government approved website. If not, the page opens in the user’s browser.

Foreign Companies Willingly Entrapped

The Internet technology companies in the United States turned to the Chinese market after the high-tech bubble burst in the late 1990s. The communist regime had been seeking advanced Internet technology for enhanced censorship and control. While business deals are being made one after another, access by Internet users in China to uncensored information is being correspondingly restricted.

Cisco is known all over the world for, among other things, building corporate firewalls to block viruses and hackers. The communist regime in China posed a unique problem to Cisco: Can Cisco help keep one billion people from accessing politically sensitive websites, now, and forever?

It was reported that, to suit this special need of the China market, Cisco developed a router device, an integrator, and a firewall box customized especially for the regime. China Telecom bought a great number of them. It would not be exaggerating to say that every Chinese firewall has Cisco routers.

As a result of this advanced technology from the West, when Internet users across China search forbidden topics on the Internet, operations time out.

On March 16, 2002, over 100 Chinese Internet companies signed a "Public Pledge on Self-Discipline for the China Internet Industry." As People’s Daily reported, "The basic principles of self-discipline for the Internet industry are patriotism, observance of the law, fairness, and trustworthiness." The pledge commits companies to avoid "producing, posting, or disseminating pernicious information that may jeopardize state security and disrupt social stability." By mid-July 2001, over 300 Chinese Internet companies, including Internet service providers and Internet content providers, had signed on.{mospagebreak}

The foreign players in the Chinese Internet arena, Cisco and Yahoo!, signed on first, followed by Microsoft in June 2005 and Google in January 2006.

One casualty of Yahoo!’s obedience to the communist regime is Shi Tao. Mr. Shi was a journalist. On November 24, 2004, police detained him near his home in Taiyuan City, Shangxi Province. Several months before, he had used his Yahoo! account and emailed to overseas media certain directions that the Propaganda Department had issued to the Chinese media on how to report the upcoming anniversary of the Tiananmen Massacre. On December 14, he was formally arrested and charged with "disclosing State secrets." On April 27, 2005, Mr. Shi was convicted and sentenced to a 10-year prison term. The judgment issued by the court revealed that the conviction was based on information that Yahoo! provided about its customer’s IP address and email account.

Shi Tao is now serving his sentence in Chizhang Prison, Hunan Province. He is not alone. Yahoo! also helped send two other Chinese cyber dissidents—Li Zhi and Jiang Lijun, both Yahoo! customers—to prison for terms of eight and four years, respectively. In the case of Mr. Li Zhi, Yahoo! provided Chinese authorities with personal identification data. Mr. Li, a 35-year-old resident of Sichuan Province, used what he believed to be an anonymous Yahoo! account to express his opinions on message boards and in chat rooms.

Microsoft is not far behind in the game. Early in January 2006, Microsoft closed down the Internet blog of prominent Chinese, Beijing-based media researcher Zhao Jing, after he posted articles critical of a management purge at the Beijing News Daily. When talking to the media, Mr. Zhao, who uses the pen name Michael Anti, stated, "MSN Spaces (has) now deleted all of my articles. I have no backup and I’m very angry." The MSN Spaces operation, a Microsoft joint venture with state-owned Shanghai Alliance Entertainment, is the top blog hosting service in China.

Keywords Filtered on the Internet

Rough analysis of a keyword list used by ISPs in their self-censorship to filter content in China shows Falun Gong at about 20 percent; Tibet, Xinjiang, Taiwan at about 15 percent; Names of Chinese leaders and their relatives at about 15 percent; democracy, corruption, and politics at about 15 percent; social unrest, police at about 10 percent; names of dissident writers, political exiles at about 10 percent; pornography-related at about 15 percent. Here are some examples of Chinese words on the list:

multiple parties; democracy; dictatorship; dafa; truthfulness, compassion, and tolerance; Falun Gong; Tiananmen; Taiwan Independence; Jiang Zeming; June 4th; June fourth; Bejing Spring; Beijing authorities; North Korea; tyranny; Xinjiang Independence; military police; police; Epoch Times; Eastern Turkistan; autocracy; Hu Jintao; Hu Ping; Jesus Christ; communism; demonstration; two Chinas; Voice of America; Ma Sanjia; treason; persecution; Rebiya; Renminbao; human rights; tolerate; Wu Hongda [Harry Wu]; student movement; dissidents; one China, one Taiwan; Zhao Ziyang; truth

Source: Xiao Qiang, China Digital Times June 14, 2005


Microsoft had previously faced intense criticism when it was revealed in June 2005 that its Chinese blogging service, MSN Spaces, restricted the entry of terms such as "freedom," "democracy," "demonstration," "Dalai Lama," "Falun Gong," and "Taiwan independence." When searching for these words in the subject line, an error message returns saying "Prohibited language, please remove." Not even former and current leaders’ names, such as "Mao Zedong" or "Hu Jintao," were allowed, reported Reuters on June 14, 2004.

On June 23, 2005, Martin McMahon, an attorney in Washington, D.C., representing Falun Gong practitioners, sent a letter to Microsoft regarding Microsoft censorship. In the letter Mr. McMahon cited Reno v. ACLU (1997), a U.S. Supreme Court decision in which Microsoft was a named plaintiff. The case challenged the Communications Decency Act as an unconstitutional violation of the First Amendment. The U.S. Supreme Court found the Act was unconstitutional, overbroad, over inclusive, and had a "chilling effect on free speech" on the Internet. We must wonder what caused the change in Microsoft’s position with regard to freedom of speech on the Internet when it came to its MSN Spaces in China.


[1] China Internet Network Information Center

Xiao Tian is a correspondent for Chinascope.

Why Hu’s $16 Billion Couldn’t Buy a Dinner

If a Chinese policeman sees a BMW racing wildly down a street, ignoring all traffic laws, he will definitely be furious—but may let it go. The policeman knows very well that the driver must have enough "official connections" to be so brash. In China, political connections override any law and any law enforcement.

When President Bush was preparing the diplomatic rituals for the upcoming visit of communist leader Hu Jintao, he must have had similar feelings toward China with its rising economic and military strength compounded by its brazen domestic and international record. Yet, Bush would not let it go so easily.

Hu Jintao may have had a different perspective. Hu was determined to make his first presidential visit a success. Hu needed to bolster his "international leader" status in order to strengthen his domestic politics. However, Hu’s preoccupation with his public relations achievement was not based on any substantial concessions, but depended more heavily on political formalities as well as rhetoric of how much he would win Bush over at their summit meeting.

Thus, the success of his visit was questionable from the very beginning by the ironic fact that neither side expected any meaningful results from the summit even though both sides were willing to attempt to miraculously gain something from nothing.

Issues and Goals

Hu’s calculation was not very different from the street-smart BMW driver in China. Money, plus political connections, will work everything out. It was Hu’s hope that a US$16 billion procurement check would pave a smooth path from Seattle to Washington. This humble hubris comprised a few objectives: 1) allow him to save face from his canceled trip last year; 2) alleviate American complaints about trade, currency rate, and other economic issues; 3) encourage Bush to make an anti-independence statement on Taiwan; 4) use the ceremonial aura as a symbolic endorsement by America to relax an ever-growing domestic crisis.

The fourth objective on the list, although unspoken, was really Hu’s bottom-line objective. This is very apparent when you look at the current trend of millions of Communist Party members quitting the Party, a continuing nationwide relay hunger strike, and 87,000 grassroots disturbances that occurred in the last year alone. Last, but not least, Hu needed to consolidate his political power base.

With unyielding positions on economic issues, human rights, and security, Hu’s last bet was to show the Chinese TV audience the "warm welcome" he received from the White House.{mospagebreak}

A Marginalized Visit

Hu’s visit was marginalized even before he embarked on his trip to U.S. soil. Hu was told beforehand that he would not receive the formal designated "state visit" status including a state dinner, but he would get a 21-gun salute on the White House lawn. Without the "state visit" status that he had strongly requested, Hu seemed to have already lost credibility and dignity. Bush was the first post-war president not to hold a state dinner for a visiting Chinese leader. By denying Hu that diplomatic protocol, Bush sent a clear message that Hu was neither a personal friend nor a "strategic partner."

In sharp contrast to the warm treatment he received from corporate giants Microsoft and Boeing on the West Coast, Hu received a tepid, yet ritually correct, reception at the nation’s capital. The chill in the East and the warmth in the West produced nothing in the Oval Office but formality. Hu’s formal lunch talk with President Bush truly, yet ironically, demonstrated a "matured" relationship that dared to list "open differences" but rather chose to announce steps to resolve difficult issues. What was spoken had already been said over the past years. The luncheon summit turned out to be one of the most monotonous occasions that reaffirmed each other’s positions.

If the payment of US$16 billion could have bought Hu a state dinner, it would not have been a cheap and easy price for China’s foreign trade sweatshops to pay. When it comes to a loss and gain analysis, Hu must have been even more upset to learn that the $16 billion deal failed, not only because it was viewed as being too cheap compared to America’s US$202 billion trade deficit to China, but also because it was viewed by many not as a gift but rather as China having to pay a "traffic violation" fine because of its hazardous domestic and international behaviors.

In fact, the value of the check was even further devaluated by Hu’s inability to provide even a basic explanation about trade surplus-related issues. What made matters worse was Hu’s unyielding position on the political and religious freedoms in China that Bush and the U.S. Congress have deemed so important and have been waiting for. Hu’s street-smart strategy might have inadvertently secured his role as an "irresponsible stakeholder" in the international community.

Yet Hu’s biggest disappointment came in the area in which he was most confident: to be welcomed as an honorary state guest. To the entire world audience, except for those in China who were unable to view it live due to censorship, the White House welcoming ceremony seemed to have paved the way for a Falun Gong protester. As Dr. Wenyi Wang began to utter her call to both presidents to stop the persecution, all media cameras turned away from Hu and onto her as if she was the main character on stage that day. The world halted and listened to Dr. Wang and not to Hu Jintao. From that point on, mainstream media has been focusing on Dr. Wang’s call to stop the ongoing slaughter and organ harvesting from Falun Gong practitioners, while Hu Jintao’s tour to the Middle East and Africa appears to have fallen into oblivion.{mospagebreak}

Why Hu’s Visit Turned Marginal

A series of seemingly random "disharmonious" incidents occurred causing Hu’s trip to become marginal. Was the United States intentionally not hospitable? This could hardly be the case as Hu received a warm welcome during his first U.S. visit in 2002 as vice president. What were the real reasons?

First, Hu has lost much of his mystery and appeal over the past three years. The current Pennsylvania Avenue whisper, "Hu is not coming to dinner," was not so much a sweet joke as a sour satire. The indication was self-evident: The Communist Party General Secretary turned out to be no more than a dry, conservative revolutionary.

What has Hu done since he has become president? He has stated that China should learn from and emulate North Korea and Cuba. He has continued the brutal persecution of political individuals, religious groups, and open-minded intellectuals. He has allowed the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) to build up at a tremendously fast pace. He has allowed his general, Zhu Chenghu, to threaten the U.S. with nuclear weapons if it protects Taiwan, and he has encouraged irresponsible international behavior. How could Hu expect the U.S. to pay any respect to him?

Furthermore, money does not buy trust. In the short run, Hu’s failure was due to his lack of sincerity and good will, which was evident by his unwillingness to yield on any major issues. Hu failed to effectively communicate to President Bush and the American public about their main concerns. Hu acted just as he would have before his own domestic subjects. Americans simply won’t accept that.

In the long run, this distrust is deeply rooted within the fundamental differences of principles that make up these two nations. The U.S. government is elected by the people and must be accountable to the people, while the communist Chinese regime seized power by force and it has been using force to suppress its people and thus maintain its power. In the United States, people are born with inalienable human rights and the government was created only to protect those rights. In China, the communist regime has trodden upon human rights and has treated human rights as concessions.

When China exported its totalitarian behaviors outside of China, the two countries were bound to run into conflicts. The bumpy relationship between the two countries over the past seven administrations and 30-plus years, with issues emerging, festering, and later reemerging, has already demonstrated a profound distrust on both sides.
Economically speaking, the two economies are mutually beneficial and interdependent, so there have been and will be agreements now and then. However, politically, there have been and always will be difficulties-big and small-as long as the Communist Party remains in power and the political system continues to be repressive. Militarily, a communist China rise would be more of a threat than an opportunity, and a Red China would hardly be a "responsible stakeholder" in the international community.

Finally, the fact that George W. Bush is a devout Christian and Hu Jintao is an atheist already pre-determines difficulties at the top level. Bush, unlike Clinton, has paid special attention to religious beliefs, as evidenced in his selection of cabinet members and his mission statement. Belief in God sets Bush apart from Hu fundamentally. How could one imagine a communist and Christian becoming close friends? Aside from geopolitics, economic interests, and strategic balance, Bush and Hu have been total strangers.

If Hu were a reformer or had been cooperative, the personal division may have been narrowed and they may have had cozier talks at Bush’s ranch. However, Hu has been obstinately uncooperative with Bush on the Iranian nuclear program and bilateral trade issues. Moreover, China’s dragging its feet on resolving the Korean nuclear crisis through its six-party talks was another factor that annoyed Bush. Why has China been only half-heartedly working on the North Korean nuclear issue? Bush surely knows that China and North Korea have had a solid military alliance by treaty since 1961, which exclusively targets the United States as their common enemy.


Hu Jintao really needs to think twice before he extends his "harmonious society" to the "harmonious world." If he insists on doing so and would like to have it done effectively, as his U.S. visit has indicated, he must first internally turn the Chinese society from disharmony to harmony by letting people enjoy basic human rights and abolishing the repressive communist rule. The days for Hu to make a correct choice and a difference are certainly numbered, as Dr. Wang warned during the historic White House ceremony.

Dong Li, a Ph.D. in Political Science from Columbia University, is a China specialist and news analyzer for New Tang Dynasty TV.

Battle for Freedom in Chinese Cyberspace

"We are set to tear down the Great Firewall of China. Our goal is to restore to Chinese Internet users their freedom in cyberspace," said Bill Xia, President of Dynamic Internet Technology, Inc. (DIT), a small Internet technology company in North Carolina.

When the U.S. Congress granted Permanent Normal Trade Relations (PNTR) to China, Western mainstream thinking was confident that free trade and new information technology would, on their own, bring change to China. The computer and the Internet, so the reasoning went, would bring free information and free thinking to China, and the communist regime would eventually lose control.

In actuality, however, the development of the Chinese Internet followed a different path. The Chinese communist regime has launched a multimillion-dollar Golden Shield project and turned the Chinese Internet into Big Brother-net. (See "Business, Values, and Moral Traps: The Paradox of the Chinese Internet," Chinascope, March/April 2006) Instead of a versatile communications tool providing people with great freedom, the Chinese Internet is now locked inside the Great Firewall of China and has become a new tool the regime can use to exercise deceit and control. Western companies have provided most of the technology that enables the Golden Shield.

Experts like Ethan Gutmann have conceded that the West has lost a great opportunity, losing the Chinese Internet to the communist regime.[1] As China quickly gains economic power, the West has fewer and fewer means for containing the technologically modernized Chinese communist regime.

Bill Xia’s idea to restore freedom on the Chinese Internet is exciting and can have historical impact. But, given the strong political and economic muscle that the Chinese communist regime exercises over the Chinese Internet, can his efforts succeed?

A Small Company Battles with a Powerful Regime

The major battles in cyberspace have been fought with Internet anti-jamming technology.

One of the pioneers in the field, Bill Xia launched his company, DIT, in 2002. DIT uses a proxy network called DynaWeb to enable users to circumvent the Internet censorship in China and gain secure and full access to the Internet. Through FreeGate, DIT’s proxy network software, Internet users in China can even access forbidden websites. As of this year, 300,000 unique users have gained regular, unblocked access to the Internet through FreeGate.{mospagebreak}

Generally there are two ways to access a website through an Internet browser. One is to type in the domain name, for example, The other way is to type in the 10-digit IP address for the same website. Typing a domain name is more popular since it is user friendly. After a user types in a name, a Web browser converts the domain name into an IP address and fetches the right information for the user. In China, the communist regime has installed filters on the national Internet gateways that can block access to any IP address the Communist Party dislikes. Bill and his team have created a variety of techniques to help Chinese users evade the regime’s firewall, and their battles in cyberspace have been fought round after round.

Round 1: Beginning in March 2002, DIT sent unblocked IP address updates to subscribers through its mass mailing technologies, which obviously included Chinese government censors. Within two weeks of the release of these IP addresses, the valid time window for a DynaWeb IP address was reduced to a range of between a few days to a couple of hours. DIT’s strategy needed to evolve.

Round 2: In April 2002, DIT expanded to domain names with dynamic IP addresses. However, China’s censors countered with an automated process to detect the IP addresses that pointed to the domain name. DIT adopted a new strategy that forced China’s censors to manually verify the IP addresses before blocking them. China’s automatic IP blockade disappeared.

Round 3: In August 2002, users started to have difficulty accessing DynaWeb through https even though the IP was not blocked. DIT later discovered that the certificate it used for secured access from the Internet browser was filtered. In response, DIT changed its certificate daily. No certificate blocking has since been reported. Again, censors were frustrated by the requirement of daily updates of all related content for the filtering engine and quit.

Round 4: At the end of September 2002, users in China who typed in the browser DynaWeb domain names and many other forbidden websites like were redirected to a fixed IP in China.[2] DynaWeb upgraded its FreeGate software to get around such redirection.

Since early 2003, DIT has had the upper hand in the anti-jamming race with the Chinese regime. In 2003, DIT took some time to develop accompanying technologies to make its service more user friendly, and it saw a corresponding increase in users. In 2004 and 2005, DIT was limited by resources and saw a slow growth of users. As of 2006, DIT has about 300,000 regular users from China.

DIT would not be able to stay a step ahead of the communist regime without support and cooperation from the end users inside China.{mospagebreak}

Connecting with the Chinese People

From behind the Great Firewall, people are seeking the truth.

In 2005, from behind China’s Great Firewall, a policewoman sent an email to Bill Xia’s DynaWeb, the proxy network in the United States that provides uncensored information in the Chinese language. Let’s call her "Lingling."

"Hi, I am a policewoman working in a prison. In the past 11 years, I have seen so much darkness and filth in this profession. Our souls yearn for truth and compassion but twisted notions have tarnished our hearts. What is justice? What is conscience?"

Lingling went to state that everyone working around her was subject to monitoring. "Spies and agents are everywhere," she continued. "I am saddened by all I see. One day I got your website link. Given what I know about the Communist Party, I believe what I see on your website. I sincerely want to work with you to build a better China, a China that is fair, democratic, and free. Here is my telephone number [omitted]. What I am doing now is not betraying China, instead it is patriotism."

"Since a friend sent me your website link at QQ[3] I feel I have found a friend that shares my life mission. I have learned so many truths and firmly believe them. When I did population census work, I saw people struggling under the poverty line, such as families of coal miners. They live in shabby shelters and eat whatever vegetables they can find on the ground along the street. I have also seen how the Communist Party officials squander resources. How can we expect them to serve the ordinary people? Please contact me. I want to work with you and be an example to awaken the numb Chinese. I do not know how to contact you. When I was young, I admired the police. I became a police officer only to find out the truth behind the title. How I long to get rid of the police uniform! To survive, I am still among them. The most disheartening is the plight of those who are imprisoned. Police who are supposed to uphold justice are actually committing crimes against them. There are no laws or principles—it is all up to the discretion of the Communist Party leaders. This is the Communist Party. It is not ‘One mouse spoils one pot of porridge’—everything is totally spoiled."

Lingling is not alone. Hits at the DynaWeb site have reached 30 million a day. Some of those hits came from a young man working in an intermediate court. "Thank you, Webmaster. I have downloaded the video version of the Nine Commentaries on the Communist Party. If every Chinese including CCP members could read it just once, the CCP would soon fall. Since I graduated from college six years ago, I have worked at an intermediate court. I have no interest in communism. After I subscribed to Internet services, I happened to visit the UltraReach website using UltraSurf software, and I saw a free and true world. I am so fortunate! I have downloaded a lot of information from UltraReach and DynaWeb sites, including those about June 4th Tiananmen, the Nine Commentaries, and Falun Gong. I am going to bring my computer back to my hometown during the Chinese New Year so that my folks and friends all know the truth. Happy Chinese New Year."{mospagebreak}

A man named Yue Shao found a home in DynaWeb. He wrote, "On this new and great website I finally found hope and motivation for my life. China will soon abandon communism. I will do my utmost to spread DynaWeb information."

Another user suggested DynaWeb upgrade its software. "Today UltraSurf is not working. It used to be very fast. Suddenly, today I cannot connect. The CCP must have taken action. Please send me the latest software. I have successfully passed your software and the Nine Commentaries to over 100 people. What a victory. We also need better protection. Suggest you update security information for the users. Thanks."

Young people appear to be the majority of those who have successfully broken through the Great Firewall. How their thinking has changed as a result is quite obvious.

"I used to devoutly support communism because I knew ‘without the Communist Party, there is no China.’ I loved New China so much because I believed what I was taught about the ‘evil old society.’ My grandpa was a guerrilla leader and fought even harder than the communist troops, but he quit the Communist Party in the 1950s. He said, ‘I do not know how to bribe. I do not know how to corrupt. So I am no longer qualified to be a Communist Party member.’ After several years of investigation and verification, I am shocked. What I devoutly admired in the past is just a bunch of evils!!!"

"Dear Webmaster, How are you? I am 26 years old. I visit DynaWeb every day. I see information that I cannot see in the Chinese domestic media. Your information is like fresh air to me. I am a fan of DynaWeb. You allow me to see China and the world with a clear mind. Think about it. My previous twenty-some years were spent under the lies of the Communist Party. My family is in the old industrial region of Jilin Province. I have witnessed how laid-off workers desperately try to support their families. I was sad and lost. Here is my QQ number [omitted]. I hope to get to know people who share the same mission to revive our nation."

Figure 1. Daily Internet Traffic from China Categorized by Services Used to Evade Communist Censorship, in 2006



A Variety of Approaches from a Diverse Pool of Players

Besides DIT, there are several other players who have developed different technologies to ensure freedom in Chinese cyberspace.

UltraReach Internet Corp. is a California company founded by Falun Gong practitioners. Sherry Zhang and her fellow practitioners developed a software called UltraSurf that enables users in China to access forbidden websites outside China via Internet Explorer without being detected.

Freenet, developed via a collaborative, open source methodology, is a peer-to-peer-distributed data store that allows members to send or retrieve information anonymously. Freenet is based on a system described by Ian Clarke in his July 1999 paper "A Distributed Decentralized Information Storage and Retrieval System," written while he was a student at the University of Edinburgh. Shortly after the publication of this paper, Clarke and a small number of volunteers began work on what became Freenet.

TriangleBoy, a proxy tool that enables a user to remain anonymous, was designed to allow users to get around firewalls and censorship and visit websites anonymously. It was developed by SafeWeb, a computer software company founded by Stephen Hsu in northern California. TriangleBoy was supported in part by Voice of America (VOA) as a way for Chinese readers to be able to bypass China’s Great Firewall and reach the VOA website. Symantec acquired SafeWeb in 2003 and no longer supports this software.

Anonymizer® Inc., a company engaged in online identity protection software and services, announced in March 2006 the launch of Operation Anti-Censorship. This new privacy software, created specifically for Chinese citizens, is said to enable safe access to the Internet by circumventing the Chinese authorities’ Web filters. The software aims to shield Chinese Internet users’ personal identities and related information that the Chinese authorities are currently able to monitor.

Tor, not for the computer novice, is a software program that enables its users to communicate anonymously over the Internet. Originally sponsored by the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory, Tor became a project of the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) in late 2004. Chinese authorities routinely conduct traffic analyses-intercepting and examining messages to deduce information from patterns in communication, which can be performed even when the messages are encrypted and cannot be decrypted. Tor aims to protect its users against traffic analysis attacks. Tor offers its users anonymous outgoing connections and anonymous hidden services.

DynaWeb (FreeGate) from DIT and UltraSurf from UltraReach Internet Corp., are clearly leaders in the anti-jamming field, as shown by the Internet trafficking data in Figure 1.{mospagebreak}

DIT and UltraReach Internet Corp., together with other companies, have recently formed the Global Internet Freedom Consortium. The member organizations of the consortium have developed highly successful anti-jamming technologies and a suite of secure Internet tools for users inside China. These tools allow Internet users in China to access uncensored information and blocked websites at will.

Bill Xia told Chinascope that the consortium members have achieved the following milestones:

In 2005, online hits by mainland Chinese Internet users at forbidden sites provided by the members of the consortium averaged 30 million a day. A vast majority are repeated users.

Essentially, every single website normally blocked from Internet use in China is still accessible because of the efforts of these consortium members. Such is the case for the websites of Voice of America and Radio Free Asia, for which the consortium members have provided services over the past four years.

The technologies developed by consortium members have drawn much attention from the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). As the CCP focuses more resources on these specific technologies, it is now easier for other new and smaller anti-jamming efforts to penetrate China’s Firewall using less sophisticated methods that focus on lightly blocked and lightly used proxy links and websites.

The technologies developed by consortium members can make the uncensored search engines of Google and Yahoo! available to Chinese Internet users.

In fact, the consortium has experienced the full cycle of anti-jamming technology development, including design, scalability, promotion, deployment, maintenance, support, and product improvement and is ready for substantial scale-up. Moreover, it has accumulated successful end-to-end service experiences with users in China. The ability to directly connect to the end users in China is a unique strength of the consortium.

A Deep China Connection

It was his passion for freedom in his home country that led Bill Xia to pursue his current career.

Bill went to China for graduate study in the 1990s. Comparing America and China, he started to appreciate the severity of media control in China. With his skills in computer technology, he used the power of the Internet to get around the media controls in China. After he obtained an advanced degree in computer science, he founded the North Carolina-based Internet service company in 2001.{mospagebreak}

The main business of his company is to develop, launch, and host websites, with a specialty in Internet security and anti-jamming technology. Voice of America and Radio Free Asia are listed as DIT’s prominent clients on its website. According to Bill, he and his team need to work very hard to ensure that his clients’ websites are always accessible to Chinese Internet users. Bill regularly works from early morning until well into the night on the computer to monitor the traffic flow from China to his company’s websites and to exploit openings in the formidable Great Firewall of China. It is crucial for DIT to keep technologically ahead of the communist regime. "I am really happy when I receive feedback from my fellow Chinese users in China. They are grateful for our efforts, and they encourage us to continue the work," Bill said. "Our hard work has provided people with tools to access information otherwise off-limits to Chinese people. Our company is making a long-term impact on China."

Many others on the front of Internet anti-jamming are like Bill Xia—they share Chinese roots and a passion for the importance of what they are doing.

California chemist and software developer Sherry Zhang, a Falun Gong practitioner, is helping UltraReach attack China’s Great Firewall. She related what happened to an American friend of hers in China: "He went to an Internet cafe and just typed in two words, ‘Falun Gong.’ Instantly, the sirens went off and the police appeared in front of him within a minute. So that’s how bad it is, because they have ways to monitor what people are doing on the Internet, especially in Internet cafes." Sherry Zhang thinks UltraReach can help her fellow Chinese break through the Chinese Firewall.

Outlook is Upbeat, Despite Major Obstacles

The battle for Chinese cyberspace is being fought on uneven ground.

The Chinese communist regime is desperately afraid of the truth, and it has spent over $800 million on its Golden Shield project, dubbed the "Great Firewall of China." As concluded by OpenNet Initiative, this Internet filtering system is the most sophisticated effort of its kind in the world. It comprises multiple levels of legal regulation and technical control. It involves numerous state agencies and thousands of public and private personnel. It censors transmitted content through multiple methods, including Web pages, Web logs, online discussion forums, university bulletin board systems, and email messages. Besides the Golden Shield’s project cost of over $800 million, there is a special task force of some 30,000 "cybercops" that patrol the Internet.

The freedom fighters are mainly a few small American companies like DIT and UltraReach, which are supported by volunteer networks. Amazingly, they have successfully and continuously poked holes in the formidable Great Firewall of China. DIT and other members in the newly formed consortium have made it possible for, in total, about one million Chinese users to have free access to the uncensored Internet.{mospagebreak}

When discussing these achievements, Bill Xia is upbeat: "We have successfully provided our users in China with effective tools that defeat the China Great Firewall and censorship for more than four years. Right now we can support about one million Chinese end users. Our aim is to significantly increase that number. Think about that. What if we could support 10 or 20 million users? That’s about 10 or 20 percent of all Chinese Internet users. If that many people in China can freely access information on the Internet, the Chinese communist regime’s censorship would be all but defeated."

Whether the newly formed Global Internet Freedom Consortium can reach that exciting goal or not remains to be seen. Bill Xia listed three major hurdles:

The first is the fear in the minds of Chinese end users. If the end users are too afraid of the communist regime, they may not dare to access free information. Ideally, the international community should keep up the pressure on the communist regime’s human rights violations so that the Chinese people are encouraged to seek freedom.

The second hurdle is the exportation of advanced technology to China. In the past, several Western companies such as Cisco have sold China specially designed equipment for building the Great Firewall. If these large, profit-seeking companies keep supplying the communist regime with advanced technology, the freedom fighters and their small companies stand little chance of winning the battle.

The third is funding and resources. The new consortium needs to find sufficient funding and resources to scale up its existing operations. The U.S. government and major foundations may not have fully recognized the importance of this battle for freedom in Chinese cyberspace. Funding these companies would be an intelligent move to help ensure Internet freedom for an enormous number of people currently under the thumb of an oppressive regime.

While Bill Xia and his friends have yet to overcome these hurdles, they will continue no matter what because they know that hundreds of thousands of Chinese Internet users like Lingling have put their hopes in them.

Xiao Tian is a correspondent for Chinascope.

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