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#JeNeSuisPasCharlieEtVousNonPlus

The Day Marx Became Chinese

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(Originally published in Spanish at www.AGONFilosofia.es, January 12, 2015)

 

            From a dark alley corner a scream echoes past the walls. A young lady cries for help as a goon tries to rape her. Inside the building across the alley a crowd unites as a voice: turning on their shining armor smartphones they tweet #United4Her,  #StandWithHer, #DoSomething,  #DoingSomething … The same crowd, it should be said, which is now united on social networks under the hashtag #JeSuisCharlie. But the staff of Charlie Hebdo is dead and they are not. Thanks to modern technology, however, these people who once would have locked up their doors and windows can now feel morally superior with just fourteen characters. As Ayaan Hirsi Ali famously said: “You can spit on freedom because you don't know what it is not to have freedom”.

            Meanwhile, on the other side of the world, more liberties are being stolen right out from under those who never knew them –and they don’t really seem to care. The People’s Republic of China started 2015 with Google’s gMail blocked after years of disruptions. As I have said elsewhere, it was one year before gMail started to fail –2012– that a Professor of Marketing from a Spanish private business school told me China was on the path of capitalism and liberalism –it has been there for the past 60 years– and, therefore, online censorship will soon cease to exist. We can actually see how and to what extent are those who expect a “Chinese Spring” deceiving themselves by looking at the new assaults on freedom of expression by the Communist authorities. Just like 2012 witnessed Kate Winslet’s “Titanic” breasts censored –they were not back in 1997–, 2015 just started with gMail getting banned.

            This could be anecdotal, but it is not. Not at all. Over the past few days, many foreign websites have been restricted or blocked, making it nearly impossible to use any service that requires a foreign (Western) IP. This includes, of course, the VPN software used by Chinese netizens and expats alike, one of the many ways they can circumvent the Great Firewall –not illegal– and access Facebook, Google, Twitter or Youtube. However, other foreign websites have also suffered, like Hotmail (Fig. 1). Not being able to establish a successful connection between your computer and a foreign server also means no access to the updates of Chrome, Microsoft Office, Adobe Reader, Java, Flash or your favorite antivirus.

 

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Fig. 1. Access to www.hotmail.com blocked (10/1/2015).

 

            More “anecdotal” facts: as Xi Jinping announces the “marximization” of China to liberate it from obnoxious Western influences –as we all know, Marx was indeed Chinese–, the broadcasting of the historical drama “The Legend of Wu Meiniang” (Wu Meiniang chuanqi) has now been restored. This production was cancelled due to some “technical problems”, which euphemistically means, in Communist Chinese, the suggestive cleavage of its female leading actresses. The solution to this has been to re-edit the show in order to get rid of the plunging necklines, and the cropping has been so effective that sometimes you don’t really see what’s going on (Fig. 2). It is, indeed, quite meaningful –and those who dream the Chinese Dream should take good notice– that these suggestive cleavages popular in 7th century China are inappropriate in the modern and soon-to-be-fully-developed China of the 21st century. One would say that radical Muslims are not the only ones living in the Arabian desert of  fourteen centuries ago.


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Fig. 2. Cleavage censorship in “The Legend of Wu Meiniang"