Friday 22 June 2007


China's fixation with control exceeds its interest in health and safety

I’ve just uploaded a selection of photos of China to the photo sharing website Flickr. The pictures are pretty standard tourist fare from across the country. It’s a positive colourful portrait. Take a look here.

But just as I have been loading these images, the Chinese government has been banning Chinese users from accessing Flickr. Why?

Well because although there are many millions of photos displayed on Flickr by hundreds of thousands of users, a few hundred are images of the Tiananmen Square massacre and the protest movement. And China is not happy about these few images.

China is ready to block the world’s favourite photo sharing site with millions of positive images of China and life the world over, because of a few images that ruffle the feathers.

Meanwhile, 100 representatives in Japan’s ruling party have also riled the Chinese this week by revising the severity of the 1937 Nanjing massacre from the Chinese estimate of 300,000 to 20,000.

That's a lot of denial! And a lot of historical debate for a world ever less interested in teaching history.

China’s justified outrage at Japanese revisionism loses a lot of steam while China is unable to run a critical eye over its own past – Tiananmen Square and the cultural revolution especially.

And the China Flickr story happens to coincide with other still unfolding China scandals in which Chinese companies have been found exporting poisonous chemicals for use in foods and pharmaceuticals. In addition, all of the toys withdrawn from US shelves recently because of health and safety risks were all manufactured in China. The food and pharmaceuticals scandal has claimed several lives internationally and many more in China.

When it comes to controlling the internet and the media, not to mention spreading its economic and military power, China seems to have limitless resources and skill. Its resources for policing the quality of food, pharmaceuticals and toys sold domestically and for export seem to be far more limited.

Resources -
Japan and Nanjing
Flickr and China

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