Four reasons to take back new microblog regulations

The first reason to withdraw “Beijing Municipal Regulations Concerning the Development and Control of Microblogs” : This regulation states that it is made “according to the Telecommunications Statute of the People’s Republic of China, the Administration of Internet Information Services Measures and other laws, regulations and statutes, but among these none are actually laws. The Telecommunications Statute and Administration of Internet Information Services Measures came about in September 2000, and at the time microblogs did not exist. Nor do these [measures] deal in any way with real-name registration. They cannot be regarded as a legal basis for managing microblogs.

The second reason to withdraw “Beijing Municipal Regulations Concerning the Development and Control of Microblogs” : On June 20, 2008, President Hu Jintao gave a special speech at People’s Daily in which he reaffirmed the people’s right to know (知情权), right to participate (参与权), right to express (表达权) and right to monitor (监督权). He pointed out that the internet “has already become a collection and distribution center for ideas, culture and information and an amplifier for public opinion.” The timing of this speech makes it of more real relevance than the the Telecommunications Statute of the People’s Republic of China and the Administration of Internet Information Services Measures.

The third reason to withdraw “Beijing Municipal Regulations Concerning the Development and Control of Microblogs” : The forefather of socialism, Marx, once incisively pointed out that anonymity of expression in the media is a form of public opinion transmission in society. He said: “”As long as the newspaper press was anonymous, it appeared as the organ of a numberless and nameless public opinion; it was the third power in the state.” The authorities in Beijing should review the radiant ideas of Marx. [On Marx and Engels publishing anonymously].

[NOTE: Thanks to Joshua Rosenzweig for providing the orthodox translation of the above passage from Marx.]

The fourth reason to withdraw “Beijing Municipal Regulations Concerning the Development and Control of Microblogs” : The lesson of previous failures. [The official] China News Service reported on August 11 that a prominent South Korean internet portal site was attacked by hackers who stole the personal information of 35 million users, including un-encripted user names, users real names, phone numbers, passwords and security questions for their e-mail accounts, identification numbers, etcetera. In order to mitigate against the illegal collection of personal information, the South Korean government has decided to abolish the country’s real-name internet registration system in stages.

This article was compiled from a series of posts Professor Zhan Jiang made to his Sina Weibo account on December 17, 2011.

10 Comments to “Four reasons to take back new microblog regulations”

  1. Will says:

    Zhan Jiang’s arguments are solid and are made in defense of the freedom of speech and expression. Of course, apologists for government censorship and restrictions on speech are bound to disagree with Mr. Zhan.

  2. ltlee says:

    Since no one is really answering Mr Zhang’s four reasons, I would like to have try.
    1. Whether the regulations have valid legal backing can only be determined by the court.
    2 and 3. The main issue is whether the weibo space is truly a market of ideas or it is treated like a common in which most if not every writer will write the darndest thing to attract attention until the weibo space as a whole has lost any pretense as “a collection and distribution center for ideas, culture and information and an amplifier for public opinion.” Should the government only act until then or should the government apply regulations to rectify the situation earlier? This is a practical and hence data driven issue, not a theoretical issue to be answer in principle, and the correct answer can only be answered by local experts.
    4. Basically irrelevant. No one will argue that people who apply for job or school should not submit their true identity because such information could be stolen.

  3. ltlee says:

    Of course, Marx is right. However, interpreting the world and changing the world, let us say, from state s1 to state s2, may not be as different as many westerners have understood.
    Chan Buddhist approach: Two men watching a boat sailing on a river. One said, “Look at the flag, it flutters.” The other countered,”No, the wind blows?” Does the flag flutter? Does the wind blow? Or the men’s heart moving.
    Daoist approach: Looking at a piece of great sculpture from natural material and many people will people will ask the question what makes a piece sculpture great. Is sculpting is a process of discovery or is it a process of creation? For many Chinese, the answer is simpler. Discovery or creation, the Dao unifies the contradiction. Whatever the answer, the piece is only great to the extent that it follows the way of Dao.
    As for my citing “free trade”, it is to illustrate a simple fact, understanding Marxism is not as simple as understanding “2+2″.

  4. S. Barret Dolph says:

    @Itlee even your hermeneutics is directly opposed to Marx! “Our job is not now to interpret the world but to change it!” I commend you for your thorough opposition to the party. One can say that Buddhism is difficult but if one holds that the meaning of Buddhism is eating meat and that all improvement comes from struggle one is so far from Buddhism that questions of interpretation are mute. What this has to do with free trade I really have no idea. But Marx is really not so hard at all to understand. One just has to go to the library and read books. It is better if one learns German but lacking that one can find someone to help where words need better translation. Study of Proudhon, Darwin, Hegel and Ricardo are all areas in which one may easily find books and help and are enough to have a basic understanding. I am currently studying the 左傳 and that is much more difficult. Even to find teachers in Mainland China is not easy.

  5. ltlee says:

    @S. Barret Dolph
    Given that “Marxism” is a complex concept, there would be many misunderstand. The same goes for other complex concept such “free trade.” During the Opium Wars, “free trade” meant one country could force opium onto another. For Hong Kong’s colonial masters, “free trade” meant heroine was free to movie in and out of Hong Kong. In the US today, “free trade” means the US could have partial economic sanction over China and yet demand balanced trade. Needless to say, after ocean of inks had been used in writing about “free trade”, experts are still debating whether “free trade” is good or really not so good. How I wish life would be simpler.

  6. S. Barret Dolph says:

    @Andao. No. I taught a class in basic Marxism to professors of political science at a very well known university. And as it is a fine university in many ways I will not disclose publicly which one. (As well as abiding to that having been requested by some of the teachers.) As far as high school basically it runs like this. Chinese are good people so they must believe in good things. So Marxism must be good. Also, because of Marx China doesn’t have Feudalism and foot binding. Being good is what once was the universal fraternity of workers. A bit watered down now. There are a few academic Marxists and Socialists at Fudan and QingHua. There are also a few National Socialists. They even have their own forum. Utopia. (Too bad they are ignorant of what Thomas More meant or what National Socialism means.)

  7. ltlee says:

    @Andao
    I will agree IF the regulations require front stage real identity.

  8. ltlee says:

    Why backstage real identity is a good thing?
    From today’s BBC, the headline read “MP Aidan Burley sacked after ‘Nazi’ party guest photo.” Will there be widespread protest over the sacking of MP Aidan Burley? Are there widespread outcry against his sacking? So far none had been reported.
    What then can we conclude from his sacking? Well, Britain as a country, has decided that his sacking is a good thing, at least better than not sacking him. If so, sacking MP Aidan Burley could be said to improve the society.
    Questions:
    1. Does it matter that the photo in which MP Aidan Burley had expressed his attitude was taken with or without his consent?
    2. Could such improvement be possible if what MP Aidan’s identity was protected?
    The availabiltiy of real Identity has helped Britain to improve its society, should one not say the same regarding China?

  9. Andao says:

    Yeah, interesting how this doesn’t match so well with that Marxist journalism they were promoting a few weeks ago.

    Can any Chinese leaders define Marxism? Most of my Chinese friends have no idea…one of them says “it means being nice to everyone.”

  10. siweiluozi says:

    The Marx quote is from Part IV of Marx’s “The Class Struggles in France, 1848 to 1850.” The “orthodox” translation is “As long as the newspaper press was anonymous, it appeared as the organ of a numberless and nameless public opinion; it was the third power in the state.” See: http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1850/class-struggles-france/ch04.htm

Leave a Comment