Monday, November 30, 2009

Aliens are "living in China" claims professor

Aliens are living in parts of China according to a physics professor who works at Yunnan University in the south west part of the country. Zhang Yifang who is also director of the Kunming UFO Research Association, claims that beings from outer space may be living in Yunnan, Heilongjiang, in north-east China, and Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, in the north-west. "The complicated terrain of these places makes them perfect for observing us earthlings," Zhang says.

The professor says that Kunming, Yunnan's capital, accounts for one-tenth of all UFO sightings in the province. There have been more than 400 reports since 1972 when a large group of people in Xishan district reported a "shiny brass bowl-like object", he said. Zhang was speaking at the Kunming UFO Forum which took place in the first two weeks of November.

While there are many critics, Zhang is insistent the aliens are amongst us. "Yunnan is a mysterious place, full of oddities," he said. "The aliens' intelligence is beyond us. They must have a good reason to choose to stay in Yunnan." He says they are no threat however. "I believe they are nice and they have no intention of attacking us," Zhang said, "Perhaps they are shape-shifters camouflaged as human beings or they have manufactured human-like robots to watch us."

Since joining the Kunming UFO Research Association in 1980 Zhang claims to have shared sightings with associations from other provinces. "Many people in China believe aliens exist," he said, "but only a few UFO lovers devote themselves to doing the research." The professor is not alone for his unorthodox beliefs. Zhang Zhousheng, 52, a former astronomer at the Yunnan Observatory, made a prediction in June 1981 that "We shall all see a UFO in late July." On July 24, 1981, millions of people in Gansu, Qinghai, Sichuan and Yunnan Province claimed to witness a flying luminous spiral-shaped body appear in the sky, according to Zhang, who left the Yunnan Observatory in 2005, though still takes a strong interest in astronomy and ufology. 

There are countless eye witness accounts of UFOs seen over China. Some people even claim to have captured documentary proof. Perhaps the most well known is the footage alleged to have been shot in Nanjing in August 2006 [pictured above]. The video shows a disc shaped object apparently hovering above an apartment building. It moves slowly over the building before illuminating several lights along its edge before suddenly disappearing in a flash of light. Convincing as the video is, many have dismissed it as a hoax. 

However the sightings of UFOs in Nanjing are not isolated. In early 2009 the Xinhua news agency reported that journalists aboard a Southern Airlines plane flying over Nanjing saw an unusual object in the sky. The luminous object apparently travelled adjacent to their own plane before shooting off at a tangent. 

Wang Sichao, a researcher at the Purple Mountain Observatory in Nanjing, who has been studying UFOs for more than 30 years, says there are often simple explanations for many UFOs. "They are usually natural phenomena or man-made objects," Wang says. However some sightings cannot be explained away so easily, he says. The researcher even suggests UFOs have been visiting Nanjing, the capital city of Jiangsu Province, every 5 to 10 years for the past three decades. There are reports of an orange V-shaped UFO with a long tail near to Jiangsu city on January 10, 2006 and in January 1999 a rod-shaped UFO appeared for nearly four hours in the skies of Nanjing according to the researcher. 

Sun Shili, a retired foreign ministry official who is now president of the Beijing UFO Research Society, also concludes that waixingren (extraterrestrials) are living among us. Sun's first close encounter occurred in 1971, when he was sent to the remote countryside during the "cultural revolution" (1966-76) to perform the grueling task of rice planting. One day while toiling in the field, his attention was diverted to a bright object in the sky, which rose and fell repeatedly. At first, Sun assumed the spectacle was some sort of Cold War intelligence monitoring device, however years later, after reading foreign material on UFO sightings, he knew he had experienced a close encounter.

While both Professor Zhang and astronomer Zhang Zhousheng are serious about their study, the UFO forum does attract some rather more eccentric individuals. One man attending this years event even claimed he had invented his own flying saucer. "Everyone come look! See? It can fly in all directions. Isn't my idea amazing?" said 40 year old Cheng Weiguo, as he showed a video on his laptop to members of the audience. "It's taken years of studying flying saucers, but I'll only sell for a good price," Cheng declared. "Please bring us a small model next time, then we will talk about it," said Professor Zhang.

sources: Global Times & Xinhua / Xinhua / Canadian / Wikipedia
tvnewswatch, Beijing, China

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

China's 3G market fuels porn wars

Chinese authorities are pushing for a clean up of the mobile porn that it says has a corrupting influence on its youth. Authorities blame the rise of 3G high-speed data services that have rolled out across the country for the upsurge in pornographic websites and say they will clamp down hard on those distributing such material.

China issued 3G (third generation) mobile network licenses to its three mobile carriers earlier this year, and the number of 3G users in China has slowly climbed. This year alone the country has also closed thousands of sites and arrested dozens in a campaign against online pornography. "Lawless people have begun using the full commercial deployment of 3G and its faster download speeds for pictures and videos... to spread obscene and pornographic content," Su Jinsheng, an engineer in China's IT ministry, said in a speech, according to a transcript on the ministry website. The cleanup was needed to "protect the healthy growth of the next generation and purify the social environment," he said.

Xinhua this week published an article in which it said it was important to rid the Internet of such material in order to promote a "healthy virtual world for Chinese minors". The article went on to say that "never has pornography posed such a great harm to the healthy growth of minors." According to Xinhua hundreds of "Internet portals transmitting pornographic information" had been closed since October. 

Such content was the cause of sexual crimes, Xinhua assets. "There are instances of minors committing such crimes as rape after viewing online pornography," the website said. Children's education was also being affected, it claimed. "Some minors just cannot concentrate on their studies after repeatedly viewing pornographic photos or videos online. That is why many parents worry that their children may be led astray by unhealthy content on the Internet."

While the arguments for and against pornography will rage for some time, there is an element of contradiction in the efforts to wipe out online pornography in China. Sex shops are common place across Beijing and in many big cities across the country. Sex toys, often displaying graphic imagery on the packaging, sit on shelves in full view of passers by. Brothels, though not as obvious, are also fairly common.

Meanwhile authorities continue their electronic war with online merchants, no doubt because they are not as easily taxed. Technically pornography is illegal in China and authorities have long cited it as a scourge on the country's culture. Earlier this year Google was caught up in a bitter dispute with Chinese authorities over pornographic search results that ultimately led to and other Google services being briefly blocked in the country. And recently a Chinese government watchdog ordered Yahoo China to clean pornographic content from a photo-sharing site it hosts. It's yet another reminder of the regulatory challenges faced by foreign Internet companies in China. The government-linked Internet Society of China on Friday said Yahoo China and other local websites had "violated social morals" by allowing porn to appear on their domains. 

tvnewswatch, Beijing, China

Monday, November 23, 2009

Mobiles become target for China's firewall

Mobile phone users appear to have become the latest target as Chinese authorities tighten their grip on Internet browsing. In recent days owners of smartphones with the Opera Mini web browser installed have found themselves thwarted by a message appearing on their phone in both Chinese and English informing them that for a "better browsing experience" the Opera Mini China version needs to be installed. Effectively, users have no choice other than to use another web browser such as Internet Explorer. 

Opera Mini is a web browser designed primarily for mobile phones, but also for smartphones and personal digital assistants. It uses the Java ME platform and consequently requires that the mobile device be capable of running Java ME applications. Opera Mini is offered free of charge, supported through a partnership between its developer, the Opera Software company, and the search engine company Google. 

The browser has an advantage over some other mobile browsers in that it requests web pages through the Opera Software company's servers, which process and compress them before relaying the data back to the mobile phone. This compression process makes transfer time about two to three times faster. The pre-processing also smoothes compatibility with web pages not designed for mobile phones. Users may also find data charges reduced as a result, especially whilst roaming. The rerouting also circumvented the so-called Great Firewall of China thus enabling those with Opera Mini installed to log onto Facebook and other blocked sites.

Expats may be particularly angry at effectively being forced to download the Chinese version of Opera Mini. They may also question the safety of the software concerned, though there is as yet no indication it will track or monitor use. It will however provide a less rich browsing experience. According to reports the Chinese version does work without problems, despite the usual blocks of specific sites.

Opera for their part are the latest line of western companies to kowtow to Chinese demands in order to operate in China. Google, Yahoo and Microsoft have all submitted to Chinese demands to restrict searches. Yahoo have been criticised for handing data to Chinese authorities in the past, and both Google and Microsoft's Bing have limited searches at the behest of Chinese government censors. Skype, which provides a way for Internet users around the world to communicate directly by voice, video and text chat, now has a Chinese-language version developed and marketed in China by the Chinese company TOM Online. Skype executives have publicly acknowledged that the TOM-Skype software censors sensitive words in text chats, and have justified this as in keeping with local "best practices" and Chinese law. However Skype does not inform Chinese users of the specific details of its censorship policies, and does not inform them that their software contains censorship capabilities. Other western companies have also aided in helping construct the Golden Shield Project, known more commonly as the Great Firewall of the #GFW on Twitter. 

China has policed the Internet with assistance from US firms. Cisco Systems, for instance, supplied the original routers China used to monitor Internet traffic, though Cisco has said it did not tailor its equipment for the Chinese market. Juniper, an information technology and computer networking products company, is also said to have aided the Chinese in building the most sophisticated Internet censoring and monitoring infrastructure. Reporters Sans Frontieres alleges that Cisco is suspected of giving Chinese engineers training in how to use its products to censor the internet. Cisco strenuously denies the allegations, but as the US Council for Foreign Relations reported back in early 2008, "China relied on two US companies – Cisco Systems and Juniper Networks – to help carry out its network upgrade, known as CN2, in 2004. This upgrade significantly increased China's ability to monitor internet usage [although] Cisco has denied charges it adapted its equipment."

Cisco's Terry Alberstein, director of corporate affairs for the Asia Pacific region, said in 2005 that the company had never helped the Chinese government suppress free speech. "Cisco does not participate in any way in any censorship activities in the People's Republic of China," Alberstein said. "We have never custom-tailored our products for the China market, and the products that we sell in China are the same products we sell everywhere else."

In essence it may be true that Juniper, Cisco and other technology providers did not "custom-tailor" products for use in China. But it should perhaps have been clear that China and similar countries would use such equipment for Internet censorship and control. To say they have no responsibility is somewhat like weapons' dealers claiming they did not know they were arming terrorists or criminals. 

Mirroring routers, on which the Great Firewall is based, were sold at a time when Chinese authorities could not easily have produced the systems on their own. The likely use of the routers was well understood, and it should be obvious why selling them to a government which intends to monitor its citizens is different from selling them to some company that wants to monitor its on-the-clock employees. But whatever the merits of the argument back then, the entire question is now moot. The Chinese authorities could now buy the necessary routers from a variety of sources – notably from the homegrown firm Huawei, the largest networking and telecommunications equipment supplier in the People's Republic of China.

The list of companies complicit in helping support China's restrictive Internet policy grows year by year. Many say they are just protecting business interests and that they would lose an otherwise lucrative market. That may be so, but there is a moral as well as a financial factor that should not be ignored. Back in 2005 Cisco fought a shareholder action that urged the company to adopt a comprehensive human rights policy for its dealings with the Chinese government. At the time it was acknowledged that the resolution would not be binding on Cisco's executives. But Dawn Wolfe, a social research and advocacy analyst at the firm, which prides itself on its socially responsible investments, said the action sent "a strong message to management, and it gets across the sentiment of shareholders in a way that writing a letter can't do." Opera, Yahoo, Microsoft, Google and others should take note.

tvnewswatch, Beijing, China

Friday, November 20, 2009

Anger over Chinese eating live fish

Animal rights campaigners have criticised the Chinese over their extreme eating habits after a video of diners eating a live fish surfaced on the internet. The film, in which a part-fried fish is shown breathing and wriggling on a plate as it is being slowly eaten alive in a restaurant, has been posted on the video-sharing website YouTube

In order to keep the carp alive chefs cook its body but wrap its head in a wet cloth to keep it breathing. it is then covered in a sauce before being served. In the video diners can be heard laughing and joking, prodding the fish while it is still moving, before picking it apart with chopsticks. Speaking in Cantonese, the Chinese language spoken mainly in Hong Kong and parts of southern China, the diners can be heard to comment on the dish before them. "It doesn't seem to be moving," one woman says as a second woman interjects, "Try moving its head." Laughing is heard as someone prods the fish with chopsticks and the fish opens and closes its mouth. A male diner then exclaims, "I'm not touching that," and a female companion reacts saying, "Wah, that is so scary." More laughing is heard and chopsticks can then be seen removing a piece of the fish before the video ends.

PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals), an animal rights group based in Virginia USA, called the video "disgusting". A spokesperson said, "Every decent person should be shocked when anyone mocks or abuses a helpless dying animal."

The video has attracted more than 120,000 views and many comments have been posted condemning the practice. Newspapers which carried the story also attracted outraged comments from readers. Britain's Sun received around 60 comments. One reader said, "This is absolutely horrendous.   Sick to the core.  They have no humanity." Another asks, "What is wrong with these people? Fine eat them, but at least make sure they have been killed humanly. I hope they go to hell. It's not funny!"

It is not the first time that the Chinese have been criticised for their extreme eating habits. There are claims some restaurants offer monkey's brains. Other dishes include rats, dogs, cats, snakes, lizards and baby mice. Last month Stephen Fry was criticised by the Chinese embassy after he singled out the Chinese culture as being the biggest threat to some endangered species. "It is not very pleasant for us to single out a culture, but, if you care about lions and tigers and whales and sharks, it is the Far East and the way they eat, or the way they attempt to cure themselves, that seems to be the biggest threat," he said.

A spokesman at the Chinese embassy responded, "I don't think it is fair to accuse other cultures of having certain negative habits and traditions...We have our traditions, as the Spanish have bullfighting, and you, until recently, had foxhunting. We did not criticise you or the Spanish for this. Tiger bones for traditional medicine are now banned, to the suffering of the Chinese industry."

tvnewswatch, Beijing, China

One year until Chrome OS launch

Google announced on Thursday this week that its much anticipated operating system will launch in one year. The web browser-based operating system,Chrome OS, will be free and targeted at netbooks. Still in development, Google open-sourced the code on Wednesday, allowing anyone to test and customize it. When Chrome OS launches, it will only be available on new netbooks with hardware Google has certified, according to Sundar Pichai, vice president of product management.

"We are completely going to be developing this in the open from now on," said Pichai, who spoke at a webcast news conference Wednesday at Google's headquarters in Mountain View, California. Chrome OS is an entirely new approach to computing. The average computer user spends most of the time on the Internet, so Google wants to cut out the middleman, the traditional operating system, which sits between a computer's hardware and a web browser. Essentially Chrome OS is Google's current browser, Chrome, reinforced with systems for browsing files, connecting devices, printing documents and keeping the computer secure. 

While Google know that they are unlikely to unseat Microsoft from their dominant position on the desktop, the company does not need to. To Google the world is the Internet, or the Cloud as it is often referred to. One example is the new Google Maps application with turn-by-turn navigation that Google is testing in the USA. To access the maps and obtain navigation information the phone, running Google Maps, needs to be connected to the Internet and receive information live from Google. Previously Satellite Navigation systems used the maps stored in their internal memory but with Google's Sat-Nav application this is no longer the case.

For Chrome OS connection to the Cloud is the most important feature. This means that Google is aiming this OS squarely at netbooks and Internet Tablets which must have WiFi and possible 3G connectivity. Chrome OS will support the ARM family of processors as well as processors like Intel's Atom. These are said to be the natural choices for mobile Internet devices.

In the online world searching for information, checking email, catching up on the news, shopping or just staying in touch with friends isn't dependant on the operating system. It is more reliant on the applications used to connect to the Internet. In the world of Google, GMail is used for email, Google is used for searching, documents are created and shared with Google Docs, planned events and itineraries are updated and shared in Google Calendar and pictures may be edited and shared through Google's Picasa. In the coming months Google Wave also looks set to become an important collaborative tool for business. 

On the official Google blog the company says, "It's all about the web. All apps are web apps. The entire experience takes place within the browser and there are no conventional desktop applications. This means users do not have to deal with installing, managing and updating programs."

Google says that security will be enhanced by using its new operating system. "Unlike traditional operating systems, Chrome OS doesn't trust the applications you run. Each app is contained within a security sandbox making it harder for malware and viruses to infect your computer," the statement on its blog reads.

Speed is also cited as of being an advantage. "We are taking out every unnecessary process, optimizing many operations and running everything possible in parallel. This means you can go from turning on the computer to surfing the web in a few seconds," Google says, "Our obsession with speed goes all the way down to the metal. We are specifying reference hardware components to create the fastest experience for Google Chrome OS."

The actual browser used, Internet Explorer, Firefox, Safari or Chrome is effectively irrelevant. In the same way Google established an Open Handset Alliance, the company has signed up several hardware manufacturers who are working with them to create netbooks where the keyword in netbook is "net". Among others, these companies include Acer, Adobe, ASUS, Freescale, Hewlett-Packard, Lenovo, Qualcomm, Texas Instruments and Toshiba. While Windows and Apple's OS X will remain dominant on the desktop, many Internet savvy users may will run Google Chrome OS on their devices in the future.

However, in China the outlook for Chrome OS may be bleak. The Chromium website has been blocked for several months and many Chinese Twitter users have expressed anger. Others have even voiced sarcasm. One user going by the name @icanithin, wrote, "China is already in the clouds and it will not work because there is blue sky... Our technology is very advanced to create artificial rainfall." Others merely pointed out the fact that the site was blocked. Simon, on his @illuminantceo feed, quotes Google saying, "In Chrome OS every app is a web app. There are no native apps. And all data is Chrome OS is in the cloud." and adds "(it) Ain't gonna work in China!" As can be seen from the picture above there are several applications which are integral to Chrome OS. Many of these are entirely blocked within China including YouTube, Facebook, Picasa web, Facebook and Twitter, while others such as Google Docs and Google Reader suffer from occasional errors.

tvnewswatch, Beijing, China

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Obama's Asian trip, success or failure

On November 12, President Obama began a 10-day journey to Asia, which included visits to Japan, Singapore, China and South Korea. The purpose of this trip, according to the White House, was to strengthen US leadership and economic competitiveness in the region, renew old alliances, forge new partnerships, and make progress on issues that matter to the American people. The trip included a number of bilateral and multilateral meetings, a Town Hall Event with Chinese youth and a visit to US troops in South Korea. But what if anything was achieved in this excursion.

In Japan President Obama met with Prime Minister Hatoyama and stated that a continuing bond existed between the two countries. He spoke of "shared values and shared interests" and said he intended to "find ways to renew this alliance and refresh it for the 21st century". While there was no clearly stated agreement on some issues other commitments showed the strong bond between America and Japan. Obama referred to the "powerful commitment of a $5 billion over the next five years to support our shared civilian efforts in Afghanistan, as well as the commitment of a billion dollars to Pakistan." But on climate change and nuclear proliferation in Iran and North Korea there was only stated goals rather than firmly stated proposals. Even Hatoyama while stressing the importance of the US-Japanese alliance revealed few hard facts. The two had only spoken for 90 minutes, giving little time to flesh out detailed agreements. Hatoyama did show he was committed to climate change however. "Now, in the area of climate change, again, we have talked on this subject. By 2050, we have set out this goal of an 80 percent reduction," he said "And both Japan and US have agreed on this, and we want to make COP-15 a success, and we agreed to cooperate towards this end."

Arriving in Singapore for the ASEAN-10 meeting Obama talked to several delegates and made an address following his discussions. Again actual facts and concrete proposals were thin on the ground. Obama spoke of a consensus with regards climate change, nuclear proliferation and trade but there was no real substance. There was only the stated importance of America's alliance with Asian countries in solving these issues and in particular furthering trade links. Obama proposed a "bold effort to achieve economic integration, which will contribute to a sustained and lasting prosperity within this region and throughout the world" but there was no plan laid out and he too admitted there was "much work left to be done".

Next stop was China, the focus of much media attention, and a controversial visit. Many hoped or expected Obama to raise issues of human rights, Internet censorship and issues of a de-valued Yuan. But although these were discussed or referred to, the words were not strong enough for many observers. The apparent obsequious approach was pragmatism on Obama's part given China holds much of America's debt. Obama's comments about a free uncensored Internet were censored in China and it is unlikely the Great Firewall will come down any time soon. Even his press conference with President Hu was little reported within China. And his call to restart talks with the Dalai Lama will probably fall on deaf ears. Even business issues such as the perceived under valued Yuan have not been widely discussed in Chinese media. Of course when Obama said his administration upheld the "one-China policy" this was reported by Xinhua within minutes. But not so when it came to more contentious issues.

The address given by Barack Obama as he stood aside President Hu in the Great Hall of the People was perhaps the briefest ever seen. Lasting only a few minutes Obama spoke of the extraordinary hospitality and said that the discussions had been "very constructive". The American people were interested in "stronger relations with the people of China," Obama said, "after 30 years of bilateral relations, I think it's fair to say that our two governments have continued to move forward in a way that can bring even greater cooperation in the future." However the fruits of the discussions about "economic issues, security issues, and global issues" were not revealed. 

Xinhua the state news organisation revealed little in the form of actual quotes. Despite meetings with President Hu Jintao, Premier Wen or Vice Premier Wu Banguo there were few details on their website.

Many Americans back home where unimpressed and dissidents were disappointed at Obama's China trip. But the criticism has been dismissed by some with Obama's administration. David Axelrod insisted the trip to China was not a failure and said, "This is not an immediate gratification business." The senior advisor went on adding, "We didn't come halfway across the world for tickertape parades. We came here to lay a foundation for progress. We've done that."

On the last leg of his Asian tour Obama met with South Korea's President Lee. But even here there were the much repeated statements heard throughout this trip. Writing in Forbes, Gordon Chang, author of the Coming Collapse of China, suggested the president should cross Beijing off his list of destinations given the "Chinese are not going to budge on anything important". As regards issues of "universal rights" much lauded by President Obama, Chang was also skeptical. "There will be statements and announcements, to be sure, but there will be little of substance in them. The White House will say that Mr. Obama talked to Chinese leader Hu Jintao about human rights, Taiwan and Tibet, for instance, but Beijing will not actually do anything in response," Chang said.

Obama has often cited a carrot rather than a stick approach when dealing with other nations. But China is rarely moved on anything it does not wish to. Chinese leaders have not taken steps to re-balance their economy, despite promises at the G-20 in Pittsburgh. Material support for North Korea increased last month and they have subsequently signaled they are likely to do the same with Iran. There is no evidence the Chinese have reduced the daily cyberattacks on the US. And attacks in other forms are also evident. They are still trying to undermine the dollar and in March vessels were ordered to attack an unarmed Navy reconnaissance ship in international waters in the South China Sea. It seems unlikely there will be any material Chinese concession either on the Doha Trade Round or Copenhagen climate change treaty. 

One could argue that many nations are only focused on their own self-interests. But it is becoming ever more apparent that Beijing is only interested in what it can obtain for itself. Last week President Hu said that he opposed "protectionism in all its manifestations". Yet there is no level playing field when it comes to business in China. Youku, China's video sharing website, operates unhindered and is host to much western copyrighted material. Google's YouTube on the other hand remains blocked. Facebook's Chinese user base has dwindled from more than a million to around 14,000 in the last few months due to its being blocked by Chinese censors. Even Google, with constant interference by authorities, has persuaded many to use Baidu, China's homegrown search engine. In the third quarter of 2009 Baidu had 64% of the 2 billion yuan ($318 million) Internet search market in China, while Google had 31.3 per cent. 

This has been going on for years and seems unlikely to change anytime soon. There have even been reports that the authorities rerouted requests for and other international search engines to Baidu's site. In 2002, Baidu had 3% and Google 24%. That same year there were already concerns over how censorship controls might affect business. "You have a lot of talent, not to mention money, that is being directed into controlling rather than stimulating the use of the web," Ken DeWoskin, a partner at accountants PricewaterhouseCoopers in Beijing, told the BBC nearly seven years ago. "It's like an enormous tax in terms of time and cost that is introduced into the use of the Internet for research... everything is just slow as molasses," DeWoskin said. 

In 2009 the Internet is little better. Social networks, which are fast becoming a business tool are of little use in China. Internet connections remain slow and unstable and there is little if any criticism by western governments directed at Beijing at how this is affecting commerce. Such hostility to the free flow of information not only affects western interests, it also affects Chinese ones. Beyond Tsingtao beer and low-end Haier refrigerators, "China has zilch brand presence in the U.S.," says Kenneth J. DeWoskin, who is now director of the China Research & Insight Center at Deloitte & Touche. Chinese companies of course do not use Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and other sites which are the mainstay of many western counterparts. As such they too will find a restrictive Internet impedes international growth and market presence. 

Beyond the Internet there are also issues of piracy and copyright infringement. Beijing claims it is cracking down on such practices yet fake DVDs, CDs and branded items from clothes to bags and watches are readily available. Recently a WTO panel ruled against Chinese restrictions on imports of audio-visual entertainment, including the use of domestic distributors to control access to the material, in response to a US challenge. It is these restrictions on foreign films that have in part fueled the pirate DVD market.

China has become a member of the WTO and yet it has been seen to ignore many of the rules set in place. A WTO ruling may be forthcoming which could set limits on blanket censorship and compel states instead to use more selective filtering. The European Centre for International Political Economy (ECIPE) says that "Censorship is the most important non-tariff barrier to the provision of online services, and a case might clarify the circumstances in which different forms of censorship are WTO-consistent." The study by Brian Hindley and Hosuk Lee-Makiyama say that already "many WTO member states are legally obliged to permit an unrestricted supply of cross-border Internet services" but that there needs to be more action to counter disproportionate censorship that disrupts commercial activities.

It remains to be seen if the WTO has a greater influence on Beijing than Mr Obama.

tvnewswatch, Beijing, China

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

CNN crew detained over ObaMao shirt

It was perhaps only to be expected, especially during a state visit by the American president that China should get just a little paranoid. Shortly after Liu Mingjie knocked up some t-shirts depicting Obama in Red Guard attire media as well as tourists were clamoring for the now hot items. Underneath the picture was the infamous Chinese phrase from the years of the Cultural revolution, "Serve the People" and on the back a play on words, Oba Mao. 

Authorities were less amused however, and apparently decreed the shirts were not to be sold. Most retailers appear to have complied and the much sought after item was unavailable in many popular tourist locations last weekend. However, Emily Chang, CNN's Asia correspondent, did manage to acquire one of the elusive items of clothing and took it with her to Shanghai with the intention of using it in a subsequent report.

However not everything went according to plan. As she did he bit to camera, passing security spotted the t-shirt and moved in."They scrambled towards us and tried to pry the shirt out of my hands," Ms Chang wrote on her CNN blog. "I didn't give in.  There was a bit of yelling and quite a scuffle."

Before long a crowd gathered and police arrived. "We ended up being detained for two hours in the cold, maze of a market," Ms Chang said, "They wanted our press cards, our passports, but most of all, they wanted the shirt," she said.  "Finally, they let us go. Phew!" Emily Chang refused to surrender the offending shirt and joked that a number of jealous White House and CNN colleagues had tried to "bribe" her for it.

Meanwhile the overzealous behaviour by security and police have only served to show the Chinese state as paranoid and insecure. It proves, as if it needed proving, that free speech is swiftly stamped on and that any claims made by Chinese politicians that human rights are moving forward are but blatant lies. The attempt to thwart the dissemination of news has in fact increased the prominence of the story and made the paranoid Chinese state look ridiculous.

tvnewswatch, Beijing, China

"China experts" are "kind of morons", US Ambassador

Any visit to China by an American president is sure to stir up some controversy. Obama has already "broken ground", as the Washington Post put it, by mentioning Internet censorship and the Dalai Lama. However, it's unclear if anything was really achieved beyond all the rhetoric of both leaders claiming they will work together. The value of the yuan remains a hot potato, at least as far as Hu Jintao is concerned. Further pressure on Iran's nuclear ambitions are unlikely to come from Beijing. And despite all the hot air over climate change, nothing has been agreed ahead of talks in Copenhagen next month.

To make any comment on what China may or may not do is fraught with problems. Its leaders are rarely forthright or straightforward. The same lines often repeat themselves and there is often little room for pragmatism, diplomacy or frank discussion. Raise any criticism and the line "hurt the feelings of all Chinese people" will often be heard spilling from the likes of ministry spokesman Qin Gang. Attempt to discuss issues like Tibet and there will be many reiterated phrases. One often quoted is that Tibet is an "inalienable part of China". In reference to any positive reporting or meeting with the Dalai Lama, the phrase "China resolutely opposes ..." will be bandied about.

There are of course the "anti-China western forces" that are part of a supposed conspiracy to split Tibet from China. And there is the continuing meddling in "China's interests" or "internal affairs". To speak of such things may show a certain knowledge about China, but it may well be dangerous, or foolish to say one is "an expert".

But conversely, to say there is no such thing as a China expert may too prove controversial. The new American diplomat to China had some fairly undiplomatic things to say about expertise in the field of Chinese relations with the United States when he spoke to reporters recently. "Don't mistake me for being an expert, because I've been here for three months,'' US Ambassador Jon Huntsman said. The former Republican governor of Utah has some expertise in foreign affairs and also speaks Mandarin. However he insisted that there was no such thing as a so-called China expert. "I've come to the conclusion that 'China expert' is kind of an oxymoron,'' Huntsman told reporters at a press briefing in Beijing. "And those who consider themselves to be China experts are kind of morons."

Of course his comments have been quickly snapped up by those in the blogosphere and the Twittersphere. No doubt China will say the feelings of Chinese people have been hurt, once again. That China resolutely opposes such comments from anti-China (expert) western forces and that experts are an inalienable part of Chinese society. But who are we to judge after all we are not experts.

tvnewswatch, Beijing, China

Obama trip fails to make big hit with papers

While Obama has undoubtedly made headlines around the world, his arrival in China failed to make the impact that might have been expected for the US president's first trip to the region. On Tuesday there was much spoken about his discourse with students who attended his stage-managed town hall meeting in Shanghai. Most western news outlets hinged on Obama's comments over censorship. Asked about Twitter and the so-called Great Firewall of China, Obama declared he was against censorship. He said he had "never used Twitter", despite having a verified @barackobama Twitter feed [evidently it is serviced by his staff], due the the fact he was "clumsy" with his thumbs. But he went on to say he was a "big believer in technology" and a free Internet.
"I'm a big believer in openness when it comes to the flow of information," the American leader said, "I think that the more freely information flows, the stronger the society becomes, because then citizens of countries around the world can hold their own governments accountable. They can begin to think for themselves.That generates new ideas. It encourages creativity."

Whether by coincidence or design, that is interference by Chinese censors, the feed froze on the White House website the moment he had said the word "accountable". It wasn't immediately clear if the live Internet stream had been deliberately scuppered or if it had more to do with a poor connection. Nonetheless, few people became aware of Obama's comments on the matter. The meeting was only broadcast on a local Shanghai television station. Even the promised Xinhua feed did not surface and even staff at Xinhua's Beijing offices resorted to watching it on the White House website.

Little of his speech was discussed in China. Xinhua was fast to publish Obama's stated view that his "administration fully supports a one-China policy" following a seemingly planted question with regards Taiwan. It was sometime later that the full transcript became available. One of the first to publish it to the web was tvnewswatch. The LA Times followed a few hours later though both sites were blocked in China. CBS published the transcript on Tuesday as did the White House website, though for ordinary Chinese there is no easily accessible Chinese language version.

Twitter users, circumventing the firewall with applications not yet blocked, continued the dialogue about Obama's visit. Many have criticised him for not being more forthright about human rights. However many see the reason behind this as not to anger the country which has bought up much of America's debt.

News coverage on state television has been scant though many newspapers carry the Obama visit front page. Some have focused on the president's arrival in Shanghai carrying his own umbrella. In China this would be rare. Officials would never be seen holding an umbrella. Instead aides would protect the VIP from the rain.

Outside of China the visit has been covered, though few carried pictures on the front page. Even many US papers pushed the story to the inside pages. One notable exception being the New York Times. No British papers gave the US president a front page lead and there were only a few European papers which gave Obama any prominence. Italy's La Stampa ran with a small picture on its front page and the Dutch paper Trouw de Verdieping showed the back of Obama's head in front of students with the headline "President Obama visits Chinese students". The Luxembourg La Voix ran with a picture of Obama meeting President Hu Jintao and the headline "Obama without taboo; Internet, human rights, and freedom of expression is the menu on the first day in China".

Chinese papers were of course less bold. The Macau Times merely informed readers of Obama's itinerary alongside a picture of the US president with China's Vice-President Xi Jinping. China Daily led with the headline "There's room for us both: Obama" and the Global Times also quoted him, "China, US not adversaries". Papers and news media is happy to promote images of the two countries working together and of presidential seals of approval when declarations are made about a "one-China policy" and Tibet being a part of China. But mentions of the yuan being undervalued, the proposal of dialogue between China and the Dalai Lama or Internet censorship are ignored almost completely.

The English version of the People's Daily did report some of Obama's comments on the Internet, but avoided any reference to Chinese Internet restrictions. The "Internet has an enormous power in assisting information dissemination, and he [Obama] personally has benefited from Internet.," the People's Daily stated. "President Obama said ... that [the] more freely information flows, [the] stronger a society becomes. He said that unrestricted Internet access will give rise to new and creative ideas, and to some extent hold the government accountable for its deeds." There was no mention of the question nor the answer in the China Daily.

tvnewswatch, Beijing, China

Monday, November 16, 2009

Increased concern over H1N1 vaccine

It may be in the realms of a conspiracy theory, but there are growing concerns over the A/H1N1 vaccine after a number of deaths and other complications linked to the preventative injection. In China last week the state news organisation Xinhua announced that two people had died after being given the vaccine. According to Deng Haihua, the Ministry of Health spokesman, one of those who died, a teacher from Hunan province, suffered a "sudden cardiac death." 

But Liu Dawei, an official in charge of vaccination with the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, insisted A/H1N1 vaccines were safe and said abnormal reactions amounted to 1.3 in 100,000. However the authorities have admitted there are some reactions to the vaccine. Chinese health authorities have so far inoculated more than 13 million people with the China-made A/H1N1 flu vaccine. Of these a total of 1,235 people who had received the vaccine were suspected to have abnormal reactions from the vaccines Liu Dawei said. Among them, 950 were suffering from "ordinary reactions" such as fever and local swellings. However, 143 people were suffering from some "comparatively rarely seen abnormal reactions." Liu did not detail what the "rare" abnormal reactions were, but he revealed that 15 people had suffered from relatively serious abnormal reactions such as anaphylactic shocks and allergy-induced laryngeal edema. Other side effects cited range from sore arms, rashes, and headaches, to sudden drops in blood pressure. 

Time magazine also reported the deaths in an article this week. It reports that widespread concern exists in China. In October the China Daily reported that in a survey it conducted some 54% of Chinese residents said that they would not get the H1N1 vaccine because of concerns about the shot's safety. That prompted the director of the World Health Organization's Beijing office, Dr. Michael O'Leary, to tell the newspaper, "The H1N1 vaccine is one of the safest vaccines being used. When it's available to me, I would not hesitate to get the vaccine developed and produced by China." As of Friday afternoon [13/11/2009], the Chinese mainland had reported close to 66,000 cases of the A/H1N1 flu, of which 43 have proved to be fatal.

French woman ill

In other developments it has been reported that a French woman suffered a crippling illness after receiving the A/H1N1 vaccine. The woman, identified only as a health worker, was diagnosed with the crippling illness Guillain-Barre Syndrome (GBS) after a swine flu shot. It followed other reports about a Virginia teenager who was similarly struck down by the disease hours after receiving the A/H1N1 vaccine.

According to the French health ministry the woman became ill within 6 days of being inoculated. Health Minister Roselyne Bachelot said the case diagnosed was light and that the woman was recovering. The Deutsche Press-Agenture said, news of the apparently vaccine-related illness is likely to dampen enthusiasm for getting vaccinated against swine flu. There has also been outrage in Germany after it was reported that some ministers as well as the armed forces there received a special additive-free A/H1N1 vaccine that did not contain ingredients such as mercury and squalene that were included in shots for the general public.

France's swine flu vaccination program has barely even begun and reports of side-effects this early will do nothing to change the minds of 83% of the French public who told Le Monde they would not take the vaccine. Similar resistance to taking the vaccine is widespread throughout the continent, from Scandanavia to Bulgaria to the Netherlands. In Germany only 13% of respondents to a survey said they would take the vaccine.

Previous warnings

Last August there were already warnings after officials warned doctors of possible similarities between the new swine flu vaccine and a jab linked to 25 deaths in America in the 1970s. The government's Health Protection Agency (HPA), said in a letter to neurologists that they needed to look out for increases in cases of a brain disorder that might follow the launch of the immunisation programme. 

In 1976, Washington rushed in a mass immunisation programme against a swine flu outbreak that was confined to a single military base. Several hundred cases of a rare, lethal, paralysing neurological disease called Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS) were reported afterwards, and although no clear link was ever found to the vaccine, the incident made many people mistrustful of immunisations [Times].

Religious warnings

There is further controversy in Croatia after Croatian priest Miroslav Bustruk appealed to Croatians not to get vaccinated against the Swine flu vaccine. In a church ceremony dedicated to St Martin, father's Bustruk statement caused an avalanche of reactions in Croatia. The Croatian daily "Jutarnji List" reported father Bustruk as saying the vaccine amounted to a bio-weapon. "I appeal to you, to not get vaccinated for the so called Swine Flu under any circumstance. There is a plan for massive destruction of humanity worldwide. For this purpose we will see new diseases springing up everywhere," father Bustruk was quoted as saying.

"The H1N1 vaccine itself is a very sophisticated weapon whose implanted microchip will control the health of the human being," the Croatian priest claimed. A colleague of father Bustrik stood in defence of the priest's assertions. Don Jure Zubovik also claimed others who had been victimized for making their views known. "Certain people who have spoken out or warned against the vaccine are already in jail," Zubovik said [Macedonia Online].

Mutations reported

Meanwhile the Sunday Express in the UK has published as story suggesting that the world may face an even greater threat from a super virus. According to the paper a "cocktail of three flu viruses" are reported to have mutated into a single pneumonic plague. The death toll has reached 189 and more than 1 million people may have been infected, most of them in the nine regions of Western Ukraine, the Express states. President of Ukraine Viktor Yushchenko has called in the World Health Organisation and a team of nine specialists are carrying out tests in Kiev and Lviv to identify the virus samples of which have been sent to London for analysis.

President Yushchenko said, "People are dying. The epidemic is killing doctors. This is absolutely inconceivable in the 21st Century." In a TV interview, the President added, "Unlike similar epidemics in other countries, three causes of serious viral infections came together simultaneously in Ukraine – two seasonal flus and the Californian flu. Virologists conclude that this combination of infections may produce an even more aggressive new virus as a result of mutation." Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko has been touring hospitals where victims are being treated and presidential elections in January could be cancelled the paper says.

tvnewswatch, Beijing, China

Obama's town hall meeting - full text

This is the full transcript of the Q&A between President Barack Obama and students at the Shanghai Science & Technology Museum, Shanghai, China. Monday 16th november 2009

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Good afternoon. It is a great honor for me to be here in Shanghai, and to have this opportunity to speak with all of you. I'd like to thank Fudan University's President Yang for his hospitality and his gracious welcome.  I'd also like to thank our outstanding Ambassador, Jon Huntsman, who exemplifies the deep ties and respect between our nations. I don't know what he said, but I hope it was good.  (Laughter.)  

What I'd like to do is to make some opening comments, and then what I'm really looking forward to doing is taking questions, not only from students who are in the audience, but also we've received questions online, which will be asked by some of the students who are here in the audience, as well as by Ambassador Huntsman.  And I am very sorry that my Chinese is not as good as your English, but I am looking forward to this chance to have a dialogue. 

This is my first time traveling to China, and I'm excited to see this majestic country. Here, in Shanghai, we see the growth that has caught the attention of the world -- the soaring skyscrapers, the bustling streets and entrepreneurial activity.  And just as I'm impressed by these signs of China's journey to the 21st century, I'm eager to see those ancient places that speak to us from China's distant past. 

Tomorrow and the next day I hope to have a chance when I'm in Beijing to see the majesty of the Forbidden City and the wonder of the Great Wall. Truly, this is a nation that encompasses both a rich history and a belief in the promise of the future. 

The same can be said of the relationship between our two countries. Shanghai, of course, is a city that has great meaning in the history of the relationship between the United States and China. It was here, 37 years ago, that the Shanghai Communique opened the door to a new chapter of engagement between our governments and among our people. However, America's ties to this city -- and to this country -- stretch back further, to the earliest days of America's independence. 

In 1784, our founding father, George Washington, commissioned the Empress of China, a ship that set sail for these shores so that it could pursue trade with the Qing Dynasty. Washington wanted to see the ship carry the flag around the globe, and to forge new ties with nations like China. This is a common American impulse -- the desire to reach for new horizons, and to forge new partnerships that are mutually beneficial. 

Over the two centuries that have followed, the currents of history have steered the relationship between our countries in many directions. And even in the midst of tumultuous winds, our people had opportunities to forge deep and even dramatic ties. For instance, Americans will never forget the hospitality shown to our pilots who were shot down over your soil during World War II, and cared for by Chinese civilians who risked all that they had by doing so. And Chinese veterans of that war still warmly greet those American veterans who return to the sites where they fought to help liberate China from occupation. 

A different kind of connection was made nearly 40 years ago when the frost between our countries began to thaw through the simple game of table tennis. The very unlikely nature of this engagement contributed to its success -- because for all our differences, both our common humanity and our shared curiosity were revealed. As one American player described his visit to China -- "[The]people are just like us…The country is very similar to America, but still very different." 

Of course this small opening was followed by the achievement of the Shanghai Communique, and the eventual establishment of formal relations between the United States and China in 1979.  And in three decades, just look at how far we have come. 

In 1979, trade between the United States and China stood at roughly $5 billion -- today it tops over $400 billion each year. The commerce affects our people's lives in so many ways.  America imports from China many of the computer parts we use, the clothes we wear; and we export to China machinery that helps power your industry.  This trade could create even more jobs on both sides of the Pacific, while allowing our people to enjoy a better quality of life. And as demand becomes more balanced, it can lead to even broader prosperity.  

In 1979, the political cooperation between the United States and China was rooted largely in our shared rivalry with the Soviet Union. Today, we have a positive, constructive and comprehensive relationship that opens the door to partnership on the key global issues of our time -- economic recovery and the development of clean energy; stopping the spread of nuclear weapons and the scourge of climate change; the promotion of peace and security in Asia and around the globe.  All of these issues will be on the agenda tomorrow when I meet with President Hu. 

And in 1979, the connections among our people were limited. Today, we see the curiosity of those ping-pong players manifested in the ties that are being forged across many sectors.  The second highest number of foreign students in the United States come from China, and we've seen a 50 percent increase in the study of Chinese among our own students. There are nearly 200 "friendship cities" drawing our communities together. American and Chinese scientists cooperate on new research and discovery.  And of course, Yao Ming is just one signal of our shared love of basketball -- I'm only sorry that I won't be able to see a Shanghai Sharks game while I'm visiting. 

It is no coincidence that the relationship between our countries has accompanied a period of positive change. China has lifted hundreds of millions of people out of poverty -- an accomplishment unparalleled in human history -- while playing a larger role in global events. And the United States has seen our economy grow along with the standard of living enjoyed by our people, while bringing the Cold War to a successful conclusion. 

There is a Chinese proverb: "Consider the past, and you shall know the future."  Surely, we have known setbacks and challenges over the last 30 years. Our relationship has not been without disagreement and difficulty. But the notion that we must be adversaries is not predestined -- not when we consider the past.  Indeed, because of our cooperation, both the United States and China are more prosperous and more secure.  We have seen what is possible when we build upon our mutual interests, and engage on the basis of mutual respect.

And yet the success of that engagement depends upon understanding -- on sustaining an open dialogue, and learning about one another and from one another. For just as that American table tennis player pointed out -- we share much in common as human beings, but our countries are different in certain ways.  

I believe that each country must chart its own course. China is an ancient nation, with a deeply rooted culture. The United States, by comparison, is a young nation, whose culture is determined by the many different immigrants who have come to our shores, and by the founding documents that guide our democracy. 

Those documents put forward a simple vision of human affairs, and they enshrine several core principles -- that all men and women are created equal, and possess certain fundamental rights; that government should reflect the will of the people and respond to their wishes; that commerce should be open, information freely accessible; and that laws, and not simply men, should guarantee the administration of justice.

Of course, the story of our nation is not without its difficult chapters. In many ways -- over many years -- we have struggled to advance the promise of these principles to all of our people, and to forge a more perfect union. We fought a very painful civil war, and freed a portion of our population from slavery. It took time for women to be extended the right to vote, workers to win the right to organize, and for immigrants from different corners of the globe to be fully embraced. Even after they were freed, African Americans persevered through conditions that were separate and not equal, before winning full and equal rights. 

None of this was easy. But we made progress because of our belief in those core principles, which have served as our compass through the darkest of storms. That is why Lincoln could stand up in the midst of civil war and declare it a struggle to see whether any nation, conceived in liberty, and "dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal" could long endure.

That is why Dr. Martin Luther King could stand on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial and ask that our nation live out the true meaning of its creed. That's why immigrants from China to Kenya could find a home on our shores; why opportunity is available to all who would work for it; and why someone like me, who less than 50 years ago would have had trouble voting in some parts of America, is now able to serve as its President.

And that is why America will always speak out for these core principles around the world. We do not seek to impose any system of government on any other nation, but we also don't believe that the principles that we stand for are unique to our nation. These freedoms of expression and worship -- of access to information and political participation -- we believe are universal rights. 

They should be available to all people, including ethnic and religious minorities -- whether they are in the United States, China, or any nation. Indeed, it is that respect for universal rights that guides America's openness to other countries; our respect for different cultures; our commitment to international law; and our faith in the future.

These are all things that you should know about America. I also know that we have much to learn about China. Looking around at this magnificent city -- and looking around this room -- I do believe that our nations hold something important in common, and that is a belief in the future. Neither the United States nor China is content to rest on our achievements. For while China is an ancient nation, you are also clearly looking ahead with confidence, ambition, and a commitment to see that tomorrow's generation can do better than today's. 

In addition to your growing economy, we admire China's extraordinary commitment to science and research -- a commitment borne out in everything from the infrastructure you build to the technology you use. China is now the world's largest Internet user -- which is why we were so pleased to include the Internet as a part of today's event. 

This country now has the world's largest mobile phone network, and it is investing in the new forms of energy that can both sustain growth and combat climate change -- and I'm looking forward to deepening the partnership between the United States and China in this critical area tomorrow. But above all, I see China's future in you -- young people whose talent and dedication and dreams will do so much to help shape the 21st century.

I've said many times that I believe that our world is now fundamentally interconnected. The jobs we do, the prosperity we build, the environment we protect, the security that we seek -- all of these things are shared.  And given that interconnection, power in the 21st century is no longer a zero-sum game; one country's success need not come at the expense of another. 

And that is why the United States insists we do not seek to contain China's rise. On the contrary, we welcome China as a strong and prosperous and successful member of the community of nations -- a China that draws on the rights, strengths and creativity of individual Chinese like you.

To return to the proverb -- consider the past. We know that more is to be gained when great powers cooperate than when they collide. That is a lesson that human beings have learned time and again, and that is the example of the history between our nations. And I believe strongly that cooperation must go beyond our government. It must be rooted in our people -- in the studies we share, the business that we do, the knowledge that we gain, and even in the sports that we play. And these bridges must be built by young men and women just like you and your counterparts in America. 

That's why I'm pleased to announce that the United States will dramatically expand the number of our students who study in China to 100,000. And these exchanges mark a clear commitment to build ties among our people, as surely as you will help determine the destiny of the 21st century. And I'm absolutely confident that America has no better ambassadors to offer than our young people. For they, just like you, are filled with talent and energy and optimism about the history that is yet to be written. 

So let this be the next step in the steady pursuit of cooperation that will serve our nations, and the world. And if there's one thing that we can take from today's dialogue, I hope that it is a commitment to continue this dialogue going forward. 

So thank you very much.  And I look forward now to taking some questions from all of you. Thank you very much. (Applause.)

So -- I just want to make sure this works. This is a tradition, by the way, that is very common in the United States at these town hall meetings. And what we're going to do is I will just -- if you are interested in asking a question, you can raise your hands. I will call on you. And then I will alternate between a question from the audience and an Internet question from one of the students who prepared the questions, as well as I think Ambassador Huntsman may have a question that we were able to obtain from the Web site of our embassy.

So let me begin, though, by seeing -- and then what I'll do is I'll call on a boy and then a girl and then -- so we'll go back and forth, so that you know it's fair. All right?  So I'll start with this young lady right in the front.  Why don't we wait for this microphone so everyone can hear you. And what's your name?

Q    My name is (inaudible) and I am a student from Fudan University. Shanghai and Chicago have been sister cities since 1985, and these two cities have conduct a wide range of economic, political, and cultural exchanges. So what measures will you take to deepen this close relationship between cities of the United States and China? And Shanghai will hold the World Exposition next year. Will you bring your family to visit the Expo? Thank you.

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Well, thank you very much for the question. I was just having lunch before I came here with the Mayor of Shanghai, and he told me that he has had an excellent relationship with the city of Chicago -- my home town -- that he's visited there twice. And I think it's wonderful to have these exchanges between cities.

One of the things that I discussed with the Mayor is how both cities can learn from each other on strategies around clean energy, because one of the issues that ties China and America together is how, with an expanding population and a concern for climate change, that we're able to reduce our carbon footprint. 

And obviously in the United States and many developed countries, per capita, per individual, they are already using much more energy than each individual here in China. But as China grows and expands, it's going to be using more energy as well. So both countries have a great interest in finding new strategies.

We talked about mass transit and the excellent rail lines that are being developed in Shanghai.  I think we can learn in Chicago and the United States some of the fine work that's being done on high-speed rail.  

In the United States, I think we are learning how to develop buildings that use much less energy, that are much more energy-efficient. And I know that with Shanghai, as I traveled and I saw all the cranes and all the new buildings that are going up, it's very important for us to start incorporating these new technologies so that each building is energy-efficient when it comes to lighting, when it comes to heating. And so it's a terrific opportunity I think for us to learn from each other.

I know this is going to be a major focus of the Shanghai  World Expo, is the issue of clean energy, as I learned from the Mayor. And so I would love to attend. I'm not sure yet what my schedule is going to be, but I'm very pleased that we're going to have an excellent U.S. pavilion at the Expo, and I understand that we expect as many as 70 million visitors here. So it's going to be very crowded and it's going to be very exciting.

Chicago has had two world expos in its history, and both of those expos ended up being tremendous boosts for the city. So I'm sure the same thing will happen here in Shanghai. Thank you. (Applause.) Why don't we get one of the questions from the Internet?  And introduce yourself, in case -- 

Q    First shall I say it in Chinese, and then the English, OK?


Q  I want to pose a question from the Internet. I want to thank you, Mr. President, for visiting China in your first year in office, and exchange views with us in China. I want to know what are you bringing to China, your visit to China this time, and what will you bring back to the United States? (Applause.) 

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  The main purpose of my trip is to deepen my understanding of China and its vision for the future. I have had several meetings now with President Hu. We participated together in the G20 that was dealing with the economic financial crisis. We have had consultations about a wide range of issues. But I think it's very important for the United States to continually deepen its understanding of China, just as it's important for China to continually deepen its understanding of the United States.

In terms of what I'd like to get out of this meeting, or this visit, in addition to having the wonderful opportunity to see the Forbidden City and the Great Wall, and to meet with all of you -- these are all highlights -- but in addition to that, the discussions that I intend to have with President Hu speak to the point that Ambassador Huntsman made earlier, which is there are very few global challenges that can be solved unless the United States and China agree.  

So let me give you a specific example, and that is the issue we were just discussing of climate change. The United States and China are the world's two largest emitters of greenhouse gases, of carbon that is causing the planet to warm. Now, the United States, as a highly developed country, as I said before, per capita, consumes much more energy and emits much more greenhouse gases for each individual than does China.  On the other hand, China is growing at a much faster pace and it has a much larger population. So unless both of our countries are willing to take critical steps in dealing with this issue, we will not be able to resolve it.  

There's going to be a Copenhagen conference in December in which world leaders are trying to find a recipe so that we can all make commitments that are differentiated so each country would not have the same obligations -- obviously China, which has much more poverty, should not have to do exactly the same thing as the United States -- but all of us should have these certain obligations in terms of what our plan will be to reduce these greenhouse gases.  

So that's an example of what I hope to get out of this meeting -- a meeting of the minds between myself and President Hu about how together the United States and China can show leadership. Because I will tell you, other countries around the world will be waiting for us. They will watch to see what we do. And if they say, ah, you know, the United States and China, they're not serious about this, then they won't be serious either.  That is the burden of leadership that both of our countries now carry. And my hope is, is that the more discussion and dialogue that we have, the more we are able to show this leadership to the world on these many critical issues. OK? (Applause.) 

All right, it's a -- I think it must be a boy's turn now. Right? So I'll call on this young man right here.

Q    (As translated.)  Mr. President, good afternoon. I'm from Tongji University. I want to cite a saying from Confucius: "It is always good to have a friend coming from afar."  In Confucius books, there is a great saying which says that harmony is good, but also we uphold differences. China advocates a harmonious world.  We know that the United States develops a culture that features diversity. I want to know, what will your government do to build a diversified world with different cultures? What would you do to respect the different cultures and histories of other countries?  And what kinds of cooperation we can conduct in the future?

PRESIDENT OBAMA: This is an excellent point. The United States, one of our strengths is that we are a very diverse culture.  We have people coming from all around the world. And so there's no one definition of what an American looks like.  In my own family, I have a father who was from Kenya; I have a mother who was from Kansas, in the Midwest of the United States; my sister is half-Indonesian; she's married to a Chinese person from Canada. So when you see family gatherings in the Obama household, it looks like the United Nations.  (Laughter.)

And that is a great strength of the United States, because it means that we learn from different cultures and different foods and different ideas, and that has made us a much more dynamic society.

Now, what is also true is that each country in this interconnected world has its own culture and its own history and its own traditions. And I think it's very important for the United States not to assume that what is good for us is automatically good for somebody else. And we have to have some modesty about our attitudes towards other countries.

I have to say, though, as I said in my opening remarks, that we do believe that there are certain fundamental principles that are common to all people, regardless of culture. So, for example, in the United Nations we are very active in trying to make sure that children all around the world are treated with certain basic rights -- that if children are being exploited,

if there's forced labor for children, that despite the fact that that may have taken place in the past in many different countries, including the United States, that all countries of the world now should have developed to the point where we are treating children better than we did in the past. That's a universal value.

I believe, for example, the same thing holds true when it comes to the treatment of women. I had a very interesting discussion with the Mayor of Shanghai during lunch right before I came, and he informed me that in many professions now here in China, there are actually more women enrolled in college than there are men, and that they are doing very well. 

I think that is an excellent indicator of progress, because it turns out that if you look at development around the world, one of the best indicators of whether or not a country does well is how well it educates its girls and how it treats its women.  And countries that are tapping into the talents and the energy of women and giving them educations typically do better economically than countries that don't.

So, now, obviously difficult cultures may have different attitudes about the relationship between men and women, but I think it is the view of the United States that it is important for us to affirm the rights of women all around the world. And if we see certain societies in which women are oppressed, or they are not getting opportunities, or there is violence towards women, we will speak out.

Now, there may be some people who disagree with us, and we can have a dialogue about that. But we think it's important, nevertheless, to be true to our ideals and our values. And we -- and when we do so, though, we will always do so with the humility and understanding that we are not perfect and that we still have much progress to make. 

If you talk to women in America, they will tell you that there are still men who have a lot of old-fashioned ideas about the role of women in society. And so we don't claim that we have solved all these problems, but we do think that it's important for us to speak out on behalf of these universal ideals and these universal values. OK?  All right. We're going to take a question from the Internet.

Q    Hello, Mr. President.  It's a great honor to be here and meet you in person.


Q   I will be reading a question selected on the Internet to you, and this question is from somebody from Taiwan.  In his question, he said:  I come from Taiwan.  Now I am doing business on the mainland.  And due to improved cross-straits relations in recent years, my business in China is doing quite well.  So when I heard the news that some people in America would like to propose -- continue selling arms and weapons to Taiwan, I begin to get pretty worried. I worry that this may make our cross-straits relations suffer. 

So I would like to know if, Mr. President, are you supportive of improved cross-straits relations? And although this question is from a businessman, actually, it's a question of keen concern to all of us young Chinese students, so we'd really like to know your position on this question. Thank you. (Applause.)

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Thank you. Well, I have been clear in the past that my administration fully supports a one-China policy, as reflected in the three joint communiqués that date back several decades, in terms of our relations with Taiwan as well as our relations with the People's Republic of China. We don't want to change that policy and that approach.  

I am very pleased with the reduction of tensions and the improvement in cross-straits relations, and it is my deep desire and hope that we will continue to see great improvement between Taiwan and the rest of -- and the People's Republic in resolving many of these issues.  

One of the things that I think that the United States, in terms of its foreign policy and its policy with respect to China, is always seeking is ways that through dialogue and negotiations, problems can be solved.  We always think that's the better course.  And I think that economic ties and commercial ties that are taking place in this region are helping to lower a lot of the tensions that date back before you were born or even before I was born.  

Now, there are some people who still look towards the past when it comes to these issues, as opposed to looking towards the future. I prefer to look towards the future. And as I said, I think the commercial ties that are taking place -- there's something about when people think that they can do business and make money that makes them think very clearly and not worry as much about ideology. And I think that that's starting to happen in this region, and we are very supportive of that process. OK?

Let's see, it's a girl's turn now, right?  Yes, right there. Yes. Hold on, let's get -- whoops, I'm sorry, they took the mic back here. I'll call on you next. Go ahead, and then I'll go up here later. Go ahead. 

Q  Thank you.  

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  I'll call on you later. But I'll on her first and then I'll call on you afterwards. Go ahead.

Q  OK, thank you. Mr. President, I'm a student from Shanghai Jiao Tong University. I have a question concerning the Nobel Prize for Peace. In your opinion, what's the main reason that you were honored the Nobel Prize for Peace?  And will it give you more responsibility and pressure to -- more pressure and the responsibility to promote world peace?  And will it bring you -- will it influence your ideas while dealing with the international affairs? Thank you very much.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Thank you. That was an excellent question. I have to say that nobody was more surprised than me about winning the Nobel Prize for Peace. Obviously it's a great honor. I don't believe necessarily that it's an honor I deserve, given the extraordinary history of people who have won the prize. All I can do is to, with great humility, accept the fact that I think the committee was inspired by the American people and the possibilities of changing not only America but also America's approach to the world.  And so in some ways I think they gave me the prize but I was more just a symbol of the shift in our approach to world affairs that we are trying to promote.

In terms of the burden that I feel, I am extraordinarily honored to be put in the position of President. And as my wife always reminds me when I complain that I'm working too hard, she says, you volunteered for this job.  (Laughter.)  And so you -- there's a saying -- I don't know if there's a similar saying in China -- we have a saying:  "You made your bed, now you have to sleep in it."  And it basically means you have to be careful what you ask for because you might get it.

I think that all of us have obligations for trying to promote peace in the world. It's not always easy to do.  There are still a lot of conflicts in the world that are -- date back for centuries. If you look at the Middle East, there are wars and conflict that are rooted in arguments going back a thousand years. In many parts of the world -- let's say, in the continent of Africa -- there are ethnic and tribal conflicts that are very hard to resolve.  

And obviously, right now, as President of the United States, part of my job is to serve as Commander-in-Chief, and my first priority is to protect the American people. And because of the attacks on 9/11 and the terrorism that has been taking place around the world where innocent people are being killed, it is my obligation to make sure that we root out these terrorist organizations, and that we cooperate with other countries in terms of dealing with this kind of violence.

Nevertheless, although I don't think that we can ever completely eliminate violence between nations or between peoples, I think that we can definitely reduce the violence between peoples -- through dialogue, through the exchange of ideas, through greater understanding between peoples and between cultures.  

And particularly now when just one individual can detonate a bomb that causes so much destruction, it is more important than ever that we pursue these strategies for peace. Technology is a powerful instrument for good, but it has also given the possibility for just a few people to cause enormous damage. And that's why I'm hopeful that in my meetings with President Hu and on an ongoing basis, both the United States and China can work together to try to reduce conflicts that are taking place.

We have to do so, though, also keeping in mind that when we use our military, because we're such big and strong countries, that we have to be self-reflective about what we do; that we have to examine our own motives and our own interests to make sure that we are not simply using our military forces because nobody can stop us. 

That's a burden that great countries, great powers, have, is to act responsibly in the community of nations.  And my hope is, is that the United States and China together can help to create an international norms that reduce conflict around the world. (Applause.)

OK.  All right?  Jon -- I'm going to call on my Ambassador because I think he has a question that was generated through the Web site of our embassy. This was selected, though, by I think one of the members of our U.S. press corps so that --

AMBASSADOR HUNTSMAN: That's right. And not surprisingly, "in a country with 350 million Internet users and 60 million bloggers, do you know of the firewall?"  And second, "should we be able to use Twitter freely" -- is the question.

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Well, first of all, let me say that I have never used Twitter. I noticed that young people -- they're very busy with all these electronics. My thumbs are too clumsy to type in things on the phone. 

But I am a big believer in technology and I'm a big believer in openness when it comes to the flow of information. I think that the more freely information flows, the stronger the society becomes, because then citizens of countries around the world can hold their own governments accountable. They can begin to think for themselves.That generates new ideas. It encourages creativity. 

And so I've always been a strong supporter of open Internet use. I'm a big supporter of non-censorship. This is part of the tradition of the United States that I discussed before, and I recognize that different countries have different traditions. I can tell you that in the United States, the fact that we have free Internet -- or unrestricted Internet access is a source of strength, and I think should be encouraged.

Now, I should tell you, I should be honest, as President of the United States, there are times where I wish information didn't flow so freely because then I wouldn't have to listen to people criticizing me all the time.  I think people naturally are -- when they're in positions of power sometimes thinks, oh, how could that person say that about me, or that's irresponsible, or -- but the truth is that because in the United States information is free, and I have a lot of critics in the United States who can say all kinds of things about me, I actually think that that makes our democracy stronger and it makes me a better leader because it forces me to hear opinions that I don't want to hear. It forces me to examine what I'm doing on a day-to-day basis to see, am I really doing the very best that I could be doing for the people of the United States.  

 And I think the Internet has become an even more powerful tool for that kind of citizen participation. In fact, one of the reasons that I won the presidency was because we were able to mobilize young people like yourself to get involved through the Internet. Initially, nobody thought we could win because we didn't have necessarily the most wealthy supporters; we didn't have the most powerful political brokers. But through the Internet, people became excited about our campaign and they started to organize and meet and set up campaign activities and events and rallies. And it really ended up creating the kind of bottom-up movement that allowed us to do very well.
Now, that's not just true in -- for government and politics. It's also true for business.  You think about a company like Google that only 20 years ago was -- less than 20 years ago was the idea of a couple of people not much older than you. It was a science project. And suddenly because of the Internet, they were able to create an industry that has revolutionized commerce all around the world. So if it had not been for the freedom and the openness that the Internet allows, Google wouldn't exist.  

So I'm a big supporter of not restricting Internet use, Internet access, other information technologies like Twitter. The more open we are, the more we can communicate. And it also helps to draw the world together.  

Think about -- when I think about my daughters, Malia and Sasha -- one is 11, one is 8 -- from their room, they can get on the Internet and they can travel to Shanghai. They can go any place in the world and they can learn about anything they want to learn about. And that's just an enormous power that they have. And that helps, I think, promote the kind of understanding that we talked about.

Now, as I said before, there's always a downside to technology. It also means that terrorists are able to organize on the Internet in ways that they might not have been able to do before. Extremists can mobilize.  And so there's some price that you pay for openness, there's no denying that. But I think that the good outweighs the bad so much that it's better to maintain that openness. And that's part of why I'm so glad that the Internet was part of this forum. OK?

I'm going to take two more questions. And the next one is from a gentleman, I think. Right here, yes. Here's the microphone.

Q   First, I would like to say that it is a great honor for me to stand here to ask you the questions. I think I am so lucky and just appreciate that your speech is so clear that I really do not need such kind of headset.  (Laughter.)  

And here comes my question.  My name is (inaudible) from Fudan University School of Management. And I would like to ask you the question -- is that now that someone has asked you something about the Nobel Peace Prize, but I will not ask you in the same aspect. 

I want to ask you in the other aspect that since it is very hard for you to get such kind of an honorable prize, and I wonder and we all wonder that -- how you struggled to get it. And what's your university/college education that brings you to get such kind of prizes?  We are very curious about it and we would like to invite you to share with us your campus education experiences so as to go on the road of success. 

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, first of all, let me tell you that I don't know if there's a curriculum or course of study that leads you to win the Nobel Peace Prize. (Laughter.)  So I can't guarantee that. But I think the recipe for success is the one that you are already following. Obviously all of you are working very hard, you're studying very hard. You're curious. You're willing to think about new ideas and think for yourself. You know, the people who I meet now that I find most inspiring who are successful I think are people who are not only willing to work very hard but are constantly trying to improve themselves and to think in new ways, and not just accept the conventional wisdom.

Obviously there are many different paths to success, and some of you are going to be going into government service; some of you might want to be teachers or professors; some of you might want to be business people. But I think that whatever field you go into, if you're constantly trying to improve and never satisfied with not having done your best, and constantly asking new questions -- "Are there things that I could be doing differently? Are there new approaches to problems that nobody has thought of before, whether it's in science or technology or in the arts? -- those are usually the people who I think are able to rise about the rest.

The one last piece of advice, though, that I would have that has been useful for me is the people who I admire the most and are most successful, they're not just thinking only about themselves but they're also thinking about something larger than themselves. So they want to make a contribution to society.  They want to make a contribution to their country, their nation, their city. They are interested in having an impact beyond their own immediate lives.

I think so many of us, we get caught up with wanting to make money for ourselves and have a nice car and have a nice house and -- all those things are important, but the people who really make their mark on the world is because they have a bigger ambition. They say, how can I help feed hungry people?  Or, how can I help to teach children who don't have an education?  Or, how can I bring about peaceful resolution of conflicts?  Those are the people I think who end up making such a big difference in the world.  And I'm sure that young people like you are going to be able to make that kind of difference as long as you keep working the way you've been working.

All right? All right, this is going to be the last question, unfortunately. We've run out of time so quickly. Our last Internet question, because I want to make sure that we got all three of our fine students here.

Q   Mr. President, it's a great honor for the last question. And I'm a college student from Fudan University, and today I'm also the representative of China's Youth (inaudible.) And this question I think is from Beijing:  Paid great attention to your Afghanistan policies, and he would like to know whether terrorism is still the greatest security concern for the United States?  And how do you assess the military actions in Afghanistan, or whether it will turn into another Iraqi war? Thank you very much.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: I think that's an excellent question. Well, first of all, I do continue to believe that the greatest threat to United States' security are the terrorist networks like al Qaeda. And the reason is, is because even though they are small in number, what they have shown is, is that they have no conscience when it comes to the destruction of innocent civilians. 

And because of technology today, if an organization like that got a weapon of mass destruction on its hands -- a nuclear or a chemical or a biological weapon -- and they used it in a city, whether it's in Shanghai or New York, just a few individuals could potentially kill tens of thousands of people, maybe hundreds of thousands.  So it really does pose an extraordinary threat.

Now, the reason we originally went into Afghanistan was because al Qaeda was in Afghanistan, being hosted by the Taliban. They have now moved over the border of Afghanistan and they are in Pakistan now, but they continue to have networks with other extremist organizations in that region. And I do believe that it is important for us to stabilize Afghanistan so that the people of Afghanistan can protect themselves, but they can also be a partner in reducing the power of these extremist networks.

Now, obviously it is a very difficult thing -- one of the hardest things about my job is ordering young men and women into the battlefield. I often have to meet with the mothers and fathers of the fallen, those who do not come home. And it is a great weight on me. It gives me a heavy heart.  

Fortunately, our Armed Services is -- the young men and women who participate, they believe so strongly in their service to their country that they are willing to go. And I think that it is possible -- working in a broader coalition with our allies in NATO and others that are contributing like Australia -- to help train the Afghans so that they have a functioning government, that they have their own security forces, and then slowly we can begin to pull our troops out because there's no longer that vacuum that existed after the Taliban left.

But it's a difficult task. It's not easy. And ultimately I think in trying to defeat these terrorist extremists, it's important to understand it's not just a military exercise. We also have to think about what motivates young people to become terrorists, why would they become suicide bombers. 

And although there are obviously a lot of different reasons, including I think the perversion of religion, in thinking that somehow these kinds of violent acts are appropriate, part of what's happened in places like Pakistan and Afghanistan is these young people have no education, they have no opportunities, and so they see no way for them to move forward in life, and that leads them into thinking that this is their only option.

And so part of what we want to do in Afghanistan is to find ways that we can train teachers and create schools and improve agriculture so that people have a greater sense of hope. That won't change the ideas of a Osama bin Laden who are very ideologically fixed on trying to strike at the West, but it will change the pool of young people who they can recruit from. And that is at least as important, if not more important over time, as whatever military actions that we can take. OK?

All right, I have had a wonderful time. I am so grateful to all of you. First of all, let me say I'm very impressed with all of your English. Clearly you've been studying very hard. And having a chance to meet with all of you, I think has given me great hope for the future of U.S.-China relations.  

I hope that many of you have the opportunity to come and travel and visit the United States. You will be welcome. I think you will find that the American people feel very warmly towards the people of China. And I am very confident that, with young people like yourselves and the young people that I know in the United States, that our two great countries will continue to prosper and help to bring about a more peaceful and secure world.

So thank you very much everybody.  Thank you.  (Applause.)