Posted by: Nena Cavel | February 15, 2009

Censorship and the Olympic Park

Unfortunately, the Chinese government has seen fit to block all WordPress sites, so I can’t read everyone else’s blogs! I’m sure it would be very interesting to compare everyone’s experiences, especially those studying in various developing countries.

On the subject of censorship, I’ve spent some time watching CCTV channel 9, in English and reading some of CCTV English online. I wanted to know how blatant the censorship would, what sort of news the government covers and how the government would spin some stories.  I’ve also visited the official website of North Korea. If you haven’t been there I highly recommend it; fun times for all. You can read all about Glorious Leader (Kim Jong Il) and the wonderful things he has done for his people. World leaders send him fruit baskets on his birthday; also, there is no AIDS in North Korea.

Certainly, CCTV.com was a far cry from this. It is very China-centric, showcasing mostly news from around China with some international content. There are even discussion topics and message boards. I was pleasantly surprised by some of the discussion topics, such as: what should China do about global warming and pollution? Does the Chinese educational system overemphasize rote memorization? China has relaxed some of its internet censorship since the Olympics. But the Chinese government still does censor information. The government-directed news media carefully walks a thin line.

For example, in articles discussing the pollution problems in China, the government’s role in creating the pollution problem is never mentioned. The content always focuses on positive aspects, such as measures the government is taking to improve the air quality; the government’s motives or legitimacy is never questioned. Besides WordPress, I haven’t noticed any other blocked sites, such as the New York Times or BBC online. It’s definitely not 1984, but every so often I’m frustrated to find that Big Brother is watching.

One of the more lovely aspects of China is the abundance of cheap clothing. Huge underground and above-ground malls filled with endless rows of stalls with vendors selling off-brand, Chinese-brand and fake-brand clothing are everywhere. They seem to cluster around each other.  I’ve already bought a “cashmere” scarf and a “Guess” bag each for a song. If you go to a cheap clothes market in China, don’t harbor any delusions that what you buy is genuine. Still, that isn’t necessarily a fault. Beijing is very polluted and the streets are very dirty, so nice clothes can be ruined quickly here. I love my quotation mark clothes. For 60 kuai, or about $7.50, if my “Guess” bag makes it to the end of the semester I’ll be very happy.

Yesterday I went with a bunch of people from my host university, Minzu University, to go visit the Olympic Park. It was very cold, but the trip was worth it. There’s a subway station right at the beginning of the park, so when you reach the top of the stairs you see the Bird’s Nest to your right and the Water Cube to your left. We paid 50 kuai to get into the Bird’s Nest. Though the complex is very stunning, the best part is the outside, which is free, the inside is basically just a stadium. We decided not to go into the Water Cube.

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