Blogger; Protests; Skies and Cars

Published 2007-06-01

In probable anticipation of the anniversary of the 1989 student protests, the gummint has clamped down tight on Blogger. For most of the year we’ve been in China, addresses at were invisible inside China, but the website was, itself, not blocked. Thus bloggers in China could create and edit posts (through, we just couldn’t see the results.

Well as of two days ago Beijing finally tightened the screws on (along with many other useful websites including but not limited to wikipedia,, BBC, and about 30% of the shopping websites you might care to name, including, really bizarrely many bicycling websites I like).

So: the only way I can post now is using a proxy network like Tor, all of which are painfully slow. This also comes just as life is getting really hectic in anticipation of our move back to Oregon. I’ll try to get a few longer, occasional posts up on the site. But if you notice a slack in the frequency of my posts, that’s why.

Probably Unrelated:

A Taiwanese company is planning to build a huge chemical plant of mysterious purpose in Haicang, just across the channel from downtown Xiamen. This is not only close to the densest residential area of the city (the downtown island), it also apparently violates a long-standing city edict to place “heavy” industry out of town, and a traditional civic reluctance to engage in such industry. (Most manufacturing in Xiamen is small consumer goods, electronics, stone work [like marble], and apparel. The electronics stuff has all been relocated in the outer suburbs.)

Yesterday a protest formed in downtown Xiamen, more or less spontaneously via text messaging and some xeroxed flyers. They apparently marched around the lake, stopping at the city government center about two blocks from our place.

I was at work in Jimei (on the mainland) when this happened but it was cool nonetheless. There are many many photos in this Flickr stream. Very big and surprisingly well-organized.

Random thought: clearly citizens of wealthier cities like Xiamen increasingly see government action as something they can influence. (We know of smaller protests over “life quality” laws like the new dog law and laws banning motorcycles in downtown Xiamen). This is a really novel concept in Chinese history, where even gentry (such as merchants and landlords) have not had much political voice. With communism came the guanxi influence system; in the last two decades this has become the de facto check on centralized power. (Ironically, I find myself agreeing more with Beijing than the local powers that be. The guanxi system gives local authorities political voice but at the expense of local citizens. When you read about Chinese attempts to clean up the environment or promote rural health care, that’s Beijing talking, not the provincial mafiosi.)

Other random thought: funny that these protests all emerge over “life quality” issues. The middle class is the same everywhere I suppose. As long as we have a chicken in the pot and a car in the garage, that’s good enough, hrm? (This, I think is the secret to Singapore’s autocracy. Let people look at just a little porn every once and a while and a multi-party system isn’t so important.)

Definitely Unrelated:

I had the most vivid dreams last night of returning to Portland. In my particular dream version of Portland, Powell’s City of Books (the big one downtown) is apparently located in PDX, which is open to the sky. Which was blue blue blue of a vividness not common in Xiamen. I could count on one hand the blue skies I’ve seen in Xiamen, and then with the other fingers on that hand count the blue skies we saw in Hong Kong. I’d need the other hand and both feet for the blue skies we saw in Taiwan, Singapore, and Bali. But really, in the last 329 days we’ve seen fewer than 20 blue skies.

In this dream I also drove a car of some sort, something we’ve done not at all in the last 11 months.

Other things we’ve pretty much not done at all for 329 days (but that we used to do, like, every day):

  • ride bicycles
  • swim
  • clean house (we have a maid)
  • do yoga
  • dry clothes in a dryer
  • browse bookstores
  • recreational shopping of any kind, really
  • hiking
  • eat food from a street vendor
  • see movies in theaters
  • listen to live music (other than the Filipino karaoke/band at the expat club)
  • drink a really satisfying beer