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)

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Globalization and the Media Activism (5)

Nowadays, “Inmediahk.net” and “Coolloud.org” are the most representative independent media organizations in Hong Kong and Taiwan. However, they do not develop their media activism as the American IMC’s. Why? As mentioned, a lack of public understanding of “independent media” as a social movement practice in the Chinese societies is one of the major factors. Against this background, the Chinese independent media would face more substantial challenges than their counterpart media in the West. Based on this understanding, it can be anticipated that various kinds of new models or approaches to the media social activism conforming with the actual social reality are to be experimented and applied. Besides, Chinese people seem to be more inactive and “conservative” in reflecting on the social significance of social movement practice. This image is probably related to the long history of Chinese traditional culture, which contains a strong education of moderate political consciousness contributed by Confucianism. No matter how difficult it is to carry out actions and communications in the public, “Inmediahk.net” and “Coolloud.org” both have developed their own approaches to social movement practice with unique characteristics that are befitting for the present socio-political climate of Hong Kong and Taiwan under the rapid growth of Chinese economy nowadays. To sum up, it can be argued that the independent media movements in Hong Kong and Taiwan would help facilitate a social power formation, stimulating a political and social enlightenment of the Chinese in the near future.

In this study, some theories related to globalization and anti-globalization movement will be firstly discussed. Then, the case studies on “Inmediahk.net” and “Coolloud.org” as the most representative independent media activisms in the Chinese will be examined. Through the case studies, the present situation of the media movement practices in Hong Kong and Taiwan under the “rise of China” is to be revealed and analyzed. Also, the interesting questions – what are the unique characteristics of the media movement practices? What are the reasonings that can help us discover the hidden relationship between the activisms and some Chinese traditional thoughts in the contemporary development of Chinese society? – will be replied and concluded in the final chapter “Conclusion” of this academic work.

(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 (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 (3)

However, Hong Kong and Taiwan are at the same time bearing stronger political and economic influence from the Mainland, despite the room for social activism existed. During the late 1980s, the development of Taiwan politics was controlled by the KMT. In 1996, the first democratic election for President was held, marking the end of the party-state (黨國) period of the political development history on the Island. This event is commonly seen as a milestone of the democratization of Taiwan. Before this election, Democratic Progressive Party, DPP (民主進步黨) had been established and developing gradually because the ban on forming political parties was suspended by the KMT in 1987. Eventually, in 2000 the DPP’s candidate Chen Shuei-Bian (Chen Shuibian陳水扁) won the presidential election. This was the first time the DPP became the governing party in Taiwan. Through the totally eight-year presidency of Chen, various “desinicization (去中國化)” policies were made. For instance, “our nation” (我國), a term being used to indicate the complete territories (including the Mainland) of the Republic of China, was amended as “China” (中國) in high school textbooks; the name of state enterprises was all changed from the “Chinese” to the “Taiwanese”. At the time, the political ideology of Taiwan independence was in its heyday and the local or native consciousness of Taiwanese was further strengthened on the Island. However, a historical turning point in the progression of Taiwan politics was emerged: in 2008, Ma Ying-jeou (Ma Yingjiu馬英九), the KMT’s presidential candidate, defeated the DPP’s Hsieh Chang-ting (Xie Changting謝長廷) to become the President. After taking his post, Ma immediately announced the state policy of “no unification, no independence, and no use of military force”, stopping the further development of the Taiwanese consciousness. Then, Ma’s government started to implement a series of Cross-Strait cooperative policies, such as signing the “Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA)”[1] with China, allowing the students from the Mainland to study in Taiwan’s universities, reducing the waiting time for the naturalization of Chinese spouses as citizen, giving the naturalized the right to work, allowing Chinese people to organized travel by oneself as the “free-tour (自由行)” in Taiwan and suggesting to sign the “Cross-Strait Peace Agreement”[2] with the Beijing government. The implement of these policies strongly implied the KMT government wanted to rely on China for economic growth through establishing an amicable relationship with China, showing that the crucial role of the Mainland in directing the future change of Taiwanese society is more concrete.

(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] For the details of “Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement”, please refer to the following hyperlink. Retrieved November 1, 2011, from the official website of Ministry of Economic Affairs, the R.O.C.:

http://www.moea.gov.tw/Mns/populace/news/wHandNews_File.ashx?news_id=19723&serial_no=6

[2] “Mr. Ma Ying-jeou gave the suggestion of signing the Cross-Strait Peace Agreement with China before the presidential election in 2008 as a main political promise to end the historical confrontation between Taiwan and China. Mr. Ma argued that the premise of signing the agreement is depended on both China and Taiwan practicing ‘no unification, no independence, and no use of military force’ while China must remove the missile deployments targeting on the island because Taiwan is unwilling to negotiate with China under the military threat.” See: Wang, Kun-Yii (Wang Kunyi王崑義) (2009). Cross-Strait Peace Agreement: Theory, Challenges and Discussions (兩岸和平協議:理論、問題與思考). Review of Global Politics, 26, p. 69.

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.