China’s a large country, and you can’t do all the same kinds of things that you can do back here in the US. First, you probably couldn’t visit this site.
Well, I’m not 100% sure on that, but I do know if your website has the word “blog” in the URL then you can’t access that site. What does that mean exactly? You couldn’t visit this site:
Now, why did I choose that site? Because it seemed stupid and it has that word “blog” right there in the link. That alone would ensure I’d get a screen that looked like this:
And is it really hard to understand why? I don’t think so. It’s clear to me the government’s scared of its people.
This is a rare occurrence, and something we don’t know in the US. See, here people are afraid of the government. In China, however, the small coterie of rich industrialists, engineers, and businessmen that make up the inner-workings of the Communist Party know that for over 5,000 years of history it was always the people that overthrew governments.
In America we have no conception of this, and that’s why the government is scary. In China they know that governments are but reeds ready to blow away at the slightest turning of the wind. And that’s why this current government, or dynasty if you will, that’s been ruling in China since 1976 is a bit worried. That’s the year Mao Zedong died and Hua Guofeng took over. He lasted two years and created an environment conducive to the reformist policies implemented by Deng Xiaoping starting in 1978.
Communism hasn’t existed in China since 1978, which is the same year Coca-Cola opened a plant in Shanghai and the US recognized the country for the first time since WWII. The country is more capitalist than many in the West, yet it’s run as an oligarchy and plutocracy, with only rich folks pulling the strings. Crony capitalism would be the best name to describe the system in place, with rampant corruption and a never-ending stream of bribes.
Talking about this is taboo, at least in China. When the New York Times ran a story on how now-former prime minister Wen Jiaobao’s family had $2.7 billion in assets the site was blocked, something that happened in October, 2012. It's probably still blocked today.
It’s that limit on communication and the free flow ideas that makes it so hard for businessmen in China to really maximize their profits, which is the whole intent of capitalism. I can’t tell you how many times businessmen complained to me about this as we sat in bars drinking cheap Chinese beer.
We know how much money there’s to be made with things like content marketing and social media marketing, yet the Chinese won’t allow this because they think it will erode their hold on power. I think they’re right, and I think the people in China should do what they’ve always done before, and overthrow a dynasty that’s lost the Mandate of Heaven.
The environment is a mess over there, and while it’s true the latest Five Year Plan addresses this in more concrete ways than the US, that crony capitalism full of corruption only ensures that any legislative teeth the plan has will be pulled immediately. That’s frustrating, but thankfully China has a long precedence for change and will continue to do the right thing.
We’ve seen these democrat rights the colony enjoys eroded however, primarily with freedom of speech. Citizens are protesting in Hong Kong for democratic rights right now over this, and protests are common there. The citizens in Hong Kong held a vigil for the victims of the Tiananmen Massacre this past June, but one has to wonder how long they’ll have the right to peaceably assemble as well.
Most people wouldn’t know that. The minimum wage in the country is 1,320 RMB a month, which is about $210. But that’s only in the really good cities like Shanghai and Shenzhen. If you live out in the countryside you might make that every few months, perhaps even in a year.
That doesn’t give you a lot of time to visit sites on the internet that might be blocked, or even to watch TV. People over there love to read the newspaper, however, and you’ll see newspaper stands and kiosks on most corners. And don’t think there’s a limit on what people can read – each stand typically has more than fifty newspapers and magazines to choose from. Whether it’s actually news or propaganda, however, is up to interpretation – lots of papers are blowing around.
Those folks have a lot of money to buy eBooks because they’re part of the largest and fastest rising middle class people that we’ve ever seen in history. We’re talking a good 500 million people here at least that went from living in homes with a room or two and questionable plumbing and electricity to all the modern conveniences we know of today, and in a generation or less.
They can buy eBooks, and they are, but just unfortunately not from Amazon. So that means that those 500 million potential customers will remain just that – potential.
It’s a bummer, and that’s why I hope those protesting for Democracy in Hong Kong will convince some of their fellow Han Chinese on the mainland to join in the fight. Better yet, have the current crop of corrupt leaders institute the remaining democratic reforms needed to ramp up capitalism further, thus allowing them to take advantage of their people to the fullest potential in their quest to maximize profits.
Limits on freedom hurt business and if your business is hurt you can’t make money. The Chinese care about money almost as much as they care about their kids, and some more so. It’s their overriding daily concern and I’ve never seen a more industrious people. And by golly do they like to sit outside and read those newspapers. Newspapers blow away in the wind, eBooks don’t. China, make the right choice.