A New Approach to Understanding the Contemporary China

One of the purposes of this study is to unveil and analyze the human problems brought by the negative effects of economic globalization. These include the rise of global capitalism, the deterioration of the operation of representative democracy in the developed realm and the widespread development of anti-globalization movement – the independent media activisms in the Chinese societies. Through the case studies of the Hong Kong and Taiwan independent media, some unique characteristics of the media movement practices are to be discovered: the media runnings not only embody the spirit of Daoism, but also help open up a new approach for us to understand the significant role of the Chinese traditional thought in influencing the contemporary development of Chinese society. For this humanist study, we will use two main research methods: (1) text research (for examining the historical context and relative theories of anti-globalization movement); (2) qualitative analysis, including (a) to interview the major founders of “Inmediahk.net” and “Coolloud.org”; (b) to analyze the interview contents as the first-hand information of the independent media research that the distinctive characteristics of the media movement practices are contained and reflected.

(See: The Theory and Practice of Anti-Globalization Movement: Case Studies of the Independent Media in the Chinese Societies – Hong Kong and Taiwan. Bonn: Bonn University. 2014)


Globalization and the Media Activism (4)

Also, the rise of global capitalism, which has caused the solidification of consumerist thinking of people around the world, violates the original ecology of the natural environment. Today, environmental pollution has become one of the serious issues affecting the sustainability of human civilization. For this, there are noteworthy points to explain why the political powers are unable to control the ongoing destruction of the Nature, including the phenomena of deforestation, desertification, sea-level rising, etc. Besides global capitalists intervening in the politics of environmental protection for their interest, one of the major reasons is the contemporary has constructed an alienated understanding on the role of the Nature in filling the unlimited demand of the human economy conforming to the dominative logic of capitalism. Murray Bookchin unveils why our civilization cannot allow a radical reverse of the destructive development of the Nature, arguing that: “the roots of the present ecological crisis do not lie in technology, overpopulation, or industrial growth alone but rather in the practice of domination and hierarchy.”[1] That is to say, any attempt to environmental protection must firstly renounce the dominative logic embedded in every aspect of human civilization development, otherwise the unsuccessful is to be made. This libertarian ecological theory, not based on praising anthropocentrism but on respecting the subjectivity of the Nature, is of a significance when the “natural disasters” like the Japan’s “311 Earthquake” causing the nuclear disaster in Fukushima in 2011, the 2012 hurricane “Sandy” making a serious flooding in New York, the U.S., etc. have been occurring, signaling the humans’ alienated practice of dominative hierarchy with the capitalist logic against the natural environment is seriously problematic.

The popularization of information technology has offered a very valuable opportunity for all humanistic and libertarian thinking to be developing. This technological development actually fosters a new civilization condition for people to know more about and even take part in social movement practice. At a global level, the enlargement of anti-globalization movement relies on worldwide promotion of a direct-action culture and exercise of transnational information exchange among different peoples as the globalization of social movement practice. As mentioned, global activists use the Internet as an instrument with the features of low-cost, open and no-border to realize their goal. The Independent Media Center (IMC) is one of the notable examples of the practice of anti-globalization movement in the contemporary.

(See: The Theory and Practice of Anti-Globalization Movement: Case Studies of the Independent Media in the Chinese Societies – Hong Kong and Taiwan. Bonn: Bonn University. 2014)

[1] See: Marshall, Peter (1992). Demanding the Impossible — A History of Anarchism. Great Britain: Fontana. p. 609.

Globalization and the Media Activism (2)

As we can see, globalization alters its shape according to the evolution of dominative power, bringing us a living circumstance under various crises, including the economic and the social ones. Ulrich Beck argues that profit making and social problems production are always interrelated: “In advanced modernity the social production of wealth is systematically accompanied by the social production of risks[1]. In today’s “risk society”, the positive aspects of globalization, such as human knowledge popularization and global unbundling of wealth accumulation, and the negative aspects of globalization, like the rapid rise of political and religious conflicts as well as terrorism, are all to be real and present. However, the negative globalization is usually ignored by the so-called “globalism”[2] or “neo-liberalism” proponents. Beck maintains that “globalism sees everything as economically determined and determinable. Any political, social or cultural matters are subsumed under economic (and particularly neoliberal economic) paradigms”[3]. The “globalists” are so keen to emphasize the “advantages” of the development of (economic) globalization praising the values of capitalism, consumerism and utilitarianism. This can be the first image of globalization structured in people’s knowledge.

(See: The Theory and Practice of Anti-Globalization Movement: Case Studies of the Independent Media in the Chinese Societies – Hong Kong and Taiwan. Bonn: Bonn University. 2014)

[1] “Accordingly, the problems and conflicts relating to distribution in a society of scarcity overlap with the problems and conflicts that arise from the production, definition and distribution of techno-scientifically produced risks.” See: Beck, Ulrich (1992). Risk Society: Towards a New Modernity. London: SAGE. p. 19.

[2] According to the definition of “globalism” given by Beck: “By globalism, I mean the view that the world market eliminates or supplants political action – that is, the ideology of rule by the world market, the ideology of neoliberalism.” See: Beck, Ulrich (2001). What Is Globalization? USA: Blackwell. p. 9.

[3] See: Mooney, Annabelle; Evans, Betsy (2007). Globalization: The Key Concepts. Oxon: Routledge. p. 116. Also, “Beck rejects globalism, the ideology of neoliberalism which declares that the world market has eliminated the need for or possibility of political action. Globalism touts a crushingly simplistic explanation of globality, reducing the complex process of globalization to one dimension, the economic. All other domains – ecology, culture, politics, civil society – are represented as being determined by the logic of the market. Beck repeatedly characterizes globalism as a ‘thought-virus’ that has penetrated all the major social institutions, not least political parties and the media.” See: Aldridge, Alan (2005). The Market. Cambridge: Polity. p. 130.

The Contemporary Development of the Chinese Societies (4)

Before the handover of Hong Kong, China had got involved in the political, economic and social development of the British colony. For example, the pro-Beijing political party “Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong (DAB民主建港協進聯盟)” was formally established in 1992. After 1997, the DAB had been developed as an influential party, having a certain percentage of votes in some representative elections of the Legislative Council and the District Council of the SAR. Nowadays, the DAB is the biggest party in the political circle of Hong Kong[1]. On the other side, the Democratic Party (民主黨) and other pan-democratic groupings, which were commonly supported by the populace before the handover, have become the minorities in the local political spectrum. Obviously, this change is related to the population increase of the Chinese in Hong Kong. One of the contributors of the fact might be the long-term one-way immigration policy for Chinese people: a fixed quota for the mainlanders to go to Hong Kong for permanent settlement with the so-called “one-way permit (單程通行證)” everyday[2]. This immigration policy has incurred population explosion of the city, meanwhile the influence of the Chinese on Hong Kong politics expanding.

There is no doubt the politico-social development of Hong Kong and Taiwan is impacted by China nowadays because the Chinese Central Government has a clear consciousness of directing the two Chinese societies’ development as “part of China” through any top-down interventions. For this, the grassroots, dissenters and social activists in the two societies are not to be absent from various political campaigns and social movements not only for human rights and democracy but for economic freedom and anti-globalization. The establishment and running of the independent media “Inmediahk.net” and “Coolloud.org” is significant because it shows Chinese people, like the West’s, have started to carry out their activisms by running the libertarian media organizations as a kind of social movement practice, embodying a humanistic spirit of respecting diversified values, opening up a public space for people’s voices, encouraging locals to be concern with political, economic and social issues at a global level and facilitating the making of a substantial social power to fight against the dominative Establishment enshrined in globalization.

(See: The Theory and Practice of Anti-Globalization Movement: Case Studies of the Independent Media in the Chinese Societies – Hong Kong and Taiwan. Bonn: Bonn University. 2014)

[1] According to the newest (2012) statistics for the seats of the political parties in Hong Kong SAR’s councils, the DAB holds 10 seats out of 60 seats in the Legislative Council and 118 seats out of 412 seats in the District Councils, showing the DAB is the only single party holding the greatest percentage of the councils’ seats in the SAR government. Retrieved November 1, 2011, from the official websites of the Legislative Council and the District Council: http://www.legco.gov.hk/general/chinese/members/yr08-12/biographies.htm; and http://www.districtcouncils.gov.hk/

[2] According to “Exploring the Hong Kong Population Policy from the One-Way Permit System”: “the one-way permit scheme has played a significant role in controlling the immigrants from the Mainland to Hong Kong since the 1980s. According to the scheme, Hong Kong government agreed to take the responsibility for the rights to ‘realize the family reunion based on the economic and social capacities of Hong Kong society’. …the Hong Kong and Chinese governments agreed to set a fixed quota (150 persons per day) for Chinese immigrants (to settle down in Hong Kong). The Chinese government has the discretionary power to decide who can immigrate to Hong Kong… From 1983 to 2006, over 960,000 people had immigrated to Hong Kong from China through the one-way permit scheme. That figure was 70% of the total immigrant number and 14% of the total population of Hong Kong in 2006.” See: Bacon-Shone, John (白景崇), Lam, Kit Chun (Lin Jiezhen林潔珍), Yip, Siu Fai (Ye Zhaohui葉兆輝) (2008). Exploring the Hong Kong Population Policy from the One-Way Permit System (從單程證制度探索香港的人口政策). Hong Kong: Bauhinia Foundation Research Centre. pp. 4-15.

The Contemporary Development of the Chinese Societies

According to the discussion in Section Two, independent media is a kind of social movement practice with the use of technology, such as the Internet, that is originated from Western society. As mentioned, the main purpose of practicing independent media movement is to break down the current tendency of media monopoly supported by political and economic powers and to encourage more people to “speak out”, having their say on socio-political issues against the mainstream media’s in the public. In the West, there were many academicians and theorists who had focused on criticizing the dominance of the so-called “mass media” in the capitalist world. For example, Theodor Adorno, Max Horkheimer and Herbert Marcuse were all the well-known critical theorists of the Frankfurt School[1] in the early-mid twentieth century, arguing the extreme development of so-called culture industry had caused the homogenization of human thinking conforming to the capitalist logic. Some activists and campaigners are inspired by the Leftist’s theory and try to do more to reverse the ongoing problematic situation nowadays. Here, internet independent media can be seen as a derivative of the Leftist’s, as a convenient, low-cost and practical form of social movement practice focusing on the media monopoly issue in the contemporary.

Since the Westernization, Chinese societies have been sharing the same problematic made by the capitalist mass culture. Therefore, in Hong Kong and Taiwan a group of social activists and intellectuals have started to carry out their own social movements by using the Internet since the late 1990s. It is noteworthy there are social, political and historical factors contributed to the form of this humanistic phenomenon of social movement practice.

(See: The Theory and Practice of Anti-Globalization Movement: Case Studies of the Independent Media in the Chinese Societies – Hong Kong and Taiwan. Bonn: Bonn University. 2014)

[1] “The Frankfurt School’s criticism of the mass communication media was that they hamper the road to such a Utopian society and that the media stand in the way of change. By selectively presenting reality, including aspects of culture, education and entertainment (in which bourgeois values enjoy priority) the media confirm and support dominant capitalist ideologies and thus maintain the status quo at the cost of the working class, which is represented by the masses. …critical theorists are concerned about the media’s ideological manipulation of the mass and the utilization and exploitation of the media by capitalist considerations…” See: Fourie, Pieter J (2001). Media Studies: Institutions, Theories and Issues. South Africa: Juta Education. pp. 243-244.

What is Independent Media (3)

A person may structure his/her opinion when having read and digested a news report interesting. This individual opinion represents a personal stance with unique understanding and feeling on the content of the report. The case of “Small Wolf” is a good example: after reading the U-Beat Magazine’s, he did not agree with the content and thought that there must be some wrongs in it. For this, he actively did an independent interview with Ng, discovering the U-Beat’s garbled Ng’s words. After that, “Small Wolf” wanted to share his new discovery through the internet independent media “Inmediahk.net”. By using the media website as an interactive platform to practice a direct communication excluding any possible interference from the Establishment, he became a “citizen reporter”, receiving a lot of positive feedback from other “netizens” (or “cybercitizens”). Here, the practice of the citizen reporting with the independent media facilitates a breaking down of the hedge of so-called journalistic professionalism because the non-dominant media that empowers people to express their concern with the uncertain social reality is well performed in the public. Through the information metabolism, the alternative grassroots voices would be further heard and strengthened that would be a social power to direct the public opinion, to reform the general media’s reporting culture nowadays.

In addition, the practice of citizen reporting through independent media embodies a spirit of respect for the freedom of speech, encouraging people to comment on socio-political issues openly as a manifestation of knowledge democracy against the mass media’s knowledge homogenization. For this issue, Ip discovers “Wikipedia.org” on public deliberation on knowledge is also a good example parallel with the spirit mentioned above:

“I am impressed by the operating principle of ‘Wikipedia.org’ on public deliberation on knowledge. The knowledge content shown on the ‘Wikipedia.org’ website can be continuously enriched and refined by people’s enthusiastic exchange of ideas and public debates. The ‘good-manner users’ of the internet encyclopedia also accept that it is important to carefully deliberate the knowledge clauses posted on the media platform and to respect cultural diversity and the minorities’ voices for knowledge clauses building…. The practice of the deliberation is the basis of so-called deliberative democracy. Therefore, there is a possibility, and also a challenge, of running an independent media to embody the democratic in a new era.”[1]

To sum up, it is critically important to ensure that all people have the same opportunity to express their ideas and opinions in the public because this conforms to the embodiment of a democratic value – everyone should be equal, having the rights to communicate their thinking and experiences on the “ideal society” with others. Therefore, against the background of the monopolization of media space to operate an internet-based independent media can be seen as a practical approach to the social movement practice as new media activism, opening up a significant room for more people to reflect on the nature of the contemporary and to trumpet their social concerns. All information posted on the independent media contributed by the enthusiasts on the net is valuable, evidencing the substantial practice of direct communication between different peoples around the world and the further deepening of human freedom in globalization.

(See: The Theory and Practice of Anti-Globalization Movement: Case Studies of the Independent Media in the Chinese Societies – Hong Kong and Taiwan. Bonn: Bonn University. 2014)

[1] Ibid., p. 41.

The Contemporary World Molded by Globalisation (4)

It cannot be denied that anti-globalization movement is a part of globalization, despite the movement itself opposes the negative effects of globalization. One of the characteristics of the practice of the movement is that it has been carried out by common people at a global level. Recently, there was a social activism practice developing across the U.S. called “Occupy Wall Street Movement”[1], which had a radical stance on globalization parallel with that of the anti-globalization. For example, the “Occupiers” criticize the wealthy capitalists and moneymakers working with the financial corporations on Wall Street, New York, arguing that these “greedy guys” seize too much economic resources through capitalist market economy that people’s living is impacted negatively: financial factitious transaction and capital investment in stock and real estate markets are rapaciously consuming the productive energy of people, ruining the strength of domestic and global economies. Moreover, they condemn the U.S. government not doing enough to curb the capitalist players’ operation, more strict laws and regulations needed. To promote their opinion, the “Occupiers” build up an official website of the movement on the Internet to deliver real-time news related to their actions, to explain their claims and ideas and to facilitate various grassroots’ communication. Now, the “Occupy Wall Street Movement” has been developing worldwide. Metropolises around the world have become the main targets being “occupied” by lots of activists and social movement supporters. They are all inspired by the spirit of the social movement through the Internet, organizing their own “Occupy Actions” locally[2]. Like anti-globalization movement, this global social activism not only shows a majority’s urge to eliminate the serious politico-economic problems of the globalized today, but also reflects the twofold character of globalization: a pushing force for/against the further development of human contemporary civilization.

Before the “Occupy Wall Street Movement”, there were tons of social and political movements carried out by many activists, radicals and intellectuals around the globe. The 1999 Anti-WTO Movement in Seattle, the U.S. was a representative one, being seen as the beginning of the rise of anti-globalization movement. This global subversive campaign directly fostered the foundation of an independent media organization called “Independent Media Center (IMC)”[3]. The IMC is a non-profit and non-governmental media responsible for delivering instant news and information related to the anti-WTO campaign on the Internet. Nowadays, the IMC still has many branch media located in metropolitan cities around the globe, playing a significant role in promoting voices from grassroots people and in reporting the social movements ongoing in every corner of the world.

(See: The Theory and Practice of Anti-Globalization Movement: Case Studies of the Independent Media in the Chinese Societies – Hong Kong and Taiwan. Bonn: Bonn University. 2014)

[1] According to the movement’s website (http://occupywallst.org/): “Occupy Wall Street is a people-powered movement that began on September 17, 2011 in Liberty Square in Manhattan’s Financial District, and has spread to over 100 cities in the United States and actions in over 1,500 cities globally. #ows is fighting back against the corrosive power of major banks and multinational corporations over the democratic process, and the role of Wall Street in creating an economic collapse that has caused the greatest recession in generations. The movement is inspired by popular uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia, and aims to fight back against the richest 1% of people that are writing the rules of an unfair global economy that is foreclosing on our future.” Retrieved November 1, 2011, from “Occupy Wall Street” website: http://occupywallst.org/about/

[2] According to the “Occupytogether” website, there are around one thousand five hundred cities in the world in which the “occupy actions are burning”. Please refer to the link in the following. Retrieved November 1, 2011, from the “Occupytogether” website: http://www.occupytogether.org/actions/

[3] According to the “IMC”: “The Independent Media Center (www.indymedia.org) was established by various independent and alternative media organizations and activists in 1999 for the purpose of providing grassroots coverage of the World Trade Organization (WTO) protests in Seattle. The center acted as a clearinghouse of information for journalists, and provided up-to-the-minute reports, photos, audio and video footage through its website. Using the collected footage, the Seattle Independent Media Center (seattle.indymedia.org) produced a series of five documentaries, uplinked every day to satellite and distributed throughout the United States to public access stations. The center also produced its own newspaper, distributed throughout Seattle and to other cities via the internet, as well as hundreds of audio segments, transmitted through the web and Studio X, a 24-hour micro and internet radio station based in Seattle. The site, which uses a democratic open-publishing system, logged more than 2 million hits, and was featured on America Online, Yahoo, CNN, BBC Online, and numerous other sites. Through a decentralized and autonomous network, hundreds of media activists setup independent media centers in London, Canada, Mexico City, Prague, Belgium, France, and Italy over the next year. IMCs have since been established on every continent, with more to come.” Retrieved November 1, 2011, from the “Independent Media Center” website: http://www.indymedia.org/en/static/about.shtml