Monthly Archives: July 2019

China’s Open Society

The world’s second-largest economy “was once again the worst abuser of internet freedom in 2018.”

President Xi Jinping talked about “open societies” during his keynote address at the Conference on Dialogue of Asian Civilizations in Beijing.

Layered on a big “brushstroke” canvas of geopolitical colors, he painted China as a picture of “enlightenment” in a world where dark “shadows” are lengthening.

“Today’s China is not only China’s China. It is Asia’s China and the world’s China. China in the future will take on an even more open stance to embrace the world,” he told his audience of dignitaries.

But that “embrace,” it appears, does not include the world’s superhighways of “online” debate.

Even while Xi was speaking, media reports confirmed that the world’s second-largest economy has now added “Wikipedia” to the banned list of websites, scorched by China’s “Great Firewall.”

According to a statement issued to the BBC, the Wikimedia Foundation revealed: “In late April, the Wikimedia Foundation determined that Wikipedia was no longer accessible in China. After closely analyzing our internal traffic reports, we can confirm that Wikipedia is currently blocked across all language versions.” 

Ironically, Wikipedia had earlier “disclosed” that up to 10,000 domain names had been “culled” by Beijing as of September 2018, including major Western media sites and “online” behemoths such as Google.

In a report entitled Freedom on the Net 2018: “The Rise of Digital Authoritarianism” author Adrian Shahbaz said:

“China was once again the worst abuser of internet freedom in 2018, and over the past year, its government hosted media officials from dozens of countries for two- and three-week seminars on its sprawling system of censorship and surveillance.”

The research director for technology and democracy went on to illustrate the gaping holes in Xi’s “open society” approach in the annual online survey from “Freedom House”, an independent advocacy organization based in the United States.

Shahbaz pointed out that the Communist Party of China is not only turning cyberspace into a “dystopian” wasteland, but exporting its “sterile” model abroad.

“One key avenue for China’s multifaceted expansionism is the Belt and Road Initiative. The BRI includes a ‘digital Silk Road’ of Chinese-built fiber-optic networks that could expose internet traffic to greater monitoring by local and Chinese intelligence agencies, particularly given that China is determined to set the technical standards for how the next generation of traffic is coded and transmitted. To this end, China has organized forums where it can impart its norms to authoritarian-leaning governments, like the 2017 World Internet Conference in Wuzhen.”

On the home front, the controversial Cybersecurity Law has virtual jaws of reality steel.

At the heart of the legislation is a draconian clause, forcing domestic and overseas companies to keep their network date in China. For individual Netizens, it is the equivalent of “Big Brother” peeping over your keyboard.

“Internet controls within China reached new extremes in 2018 with the implementation of the sweeping Cybersecurity Law and upgrades to surveillance technology,” the Freedom on the Net 2018 report stated.

Shades of an Orwellian future have already clouded Xi’s vaunted vision with the language coming out of Beijing resembling the doublespeak nightmare of 1984.

In part, the trade war with the United States has exasperated the situation with internet freedom deteriorating as tensions between the two nations continue to rise.

“Absolute freedom leads to freedom for no one,” the state-run Global Times newspaper stated in a commentary. “Compared to US-style internet regulation which is full of problems, China’s approach showed its worthiness. Labeling China as an authoritarian country and calling countries that are learning from China authoritarian is dividing the internet into two completely different fronts, and splitting the internet in two,” it added.

“US media needs to know that if more countries start to follow Beijing’s footsteps in internet governance while pursuing democracy in social media, it means China must have done something right,” Global Times concluded.

Indeed, an online world fragmenting into two spheres of influence is gaining traction. One, of course, is destined to always have a “closed sign” hanging over what the CCP deems as undesirable portals.

Apart from controlling what the vast internet population can and cannot read without a “Virtual Private Network” (VPN) blocking Western search engines and social media sites has allowed China’s cyber giants to flourish.

The big four of Alibaba, Tencent, Baidu and JD.com have a virtual “monopoly.” Outsiders are not tolerated unless they are “home-grown.” Unfortunately, that is unlikely to change in the future.

Adam Segal, an expert in emerging technologies and national security at the Council on Foreign Relations, outlined the options in an essay entitled When China Rules the Web for Foreign Affairs:

“China’s continued rise as a cyber-superpower is not guaranteed. Top-down, state-led efforts at innovation in artificial intelligence, quantum computing, robotics, and other ambitious technologies may well fail. Chinese technology companies will face economic and political pressures as they globalize. 

Chinese citizens, although they appear to have little expectation of privacy from their government, may demand more from private firms. The United States may re-energize its own digital diplomacy, and the US economy may rediscover the dynamism that allowed it to create so much of the modern world’s technology. 

But given China’s size and technological sophistication, Beijing has a good chance of succeeding – thereby remaking cyberspace in its own image. If this happens, the internet will be less global and less open. A major part of it will run Chinese applications over Chinese-made hardware. And Beijing will reap the economic, diplomatic, national security and intelligence benefits that once flowed to Washington.”

Maybe, after all, this is Xi’s “open society,” ensconced in a Great Firewall “inferno” of public opinion?

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Do Missionaries Retire?

Did you know that there is no word for “retirement” in the Bible? The concept cannot be found in Scripture.

The closest thing to it is in Numbers 8:24-26: “This applies to the Levites: Men twenty-five years old or more shall come to take part in the work at the tent of meeting, but at the age of fifty, they must retire from their regular service and work no longer. They may assist their brothers in performing their duties at the tent of meeting, but they themselves must not do the work. This, then, is how you are to assign the responsibilities of the Levites.”

There God instructed that full-time priestly “tabernacle” responsibilities end at age 50. Remember, this was physically “demanding” work with large livestock. Priests older than 50 continued to “assist and serve” as advisers or supervisors, but the full-time physical “labor” was done by the younger men.

However, this was not “retirement” as practiced today. Retirement as we understand it is quite a recent concept.

The first nation to introduce a “social insurance” program for the aged was Germany in 1889. The emperor, William I told parliament, “Those who are disabled from work by age and invalidity have a well-grounded claim to care from the state. The nation initially set retirement age at 70. Life expectancy at the time was less than 50 years.

For most of human history, people expected to “work” until they died. If they became too “infirm” to do so, the family was supposed to “care” for them. But in modern society, people believe that once you’ve “put in your time,” you deserve a decade or two of “work-free lounging, traveling or playing golf.”

One factor driving the “push” for retirement is an “aversion” to work. A Missionary, however, has a positive “attitude” toward work and views it as the “calling” it is.

Work provides opportunity to design, produce and maintain, to embrace challenges, to interact with and serve others. God always works. In his defense Jesus said to them “My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I too am working.” John 5:17.

Obviously there is nothing that says you have to “stay in the same job” your whole life. But disengaging from a “life of service” and turning wholly toward simply seeking your “own” enjoyment is a trap, and ungodly.

That’s not to say an older person cannot “enjoy” extra leisure or family time, these are wonderful blessings in the “sunset” years of a productive life. But one must beware wanting to “withdraw” from serving and contributing. We must keep “active, industrious, diligent, alert and constantly improving and decry idleness or laziness.”

As I get older doing the “dynamic” work of God I am surrounded by brilliant, intelligent, capable, industrious, hardworking younger people, many coming out of college every year. Part of my job is to continually keep “ahead” of them!

God gave me a head start in years. But if I’m not on my “toes” constantly, some of these alert and eager young people, and those approaching middle age, would leave me far behind as a “has-been”, which I have no interest in.

Another major reason retirement has grown popular is the notion that a person’s productive years end around age 65. This reflects a terrible prejudice in Satan’s society against the aged. “People seem to assume that after the 50s, the human mind is supposed to decay,” especially in China where retirement begins at 55.

Perhaps some few, accepting the “myth,” have bogged down and grown senile. That is a tragedy. It happens only to the “mind” that has not been used. A mind improves with “use” and age. Wisdom comes with “experience” and age.

In my personal experience, I have produced my greatest “accomplishment” since I hit the calendar age of 60. The most important “knowledge” has been learned since then. I work today with more “vigor, effectiveness and power than in my 40s.”

Moses started his real life’s work at age 80, and he never retired. Work produces goods and services for others, it produces physical and mental growth and development in yourself, and it provides a way to financially support others and to support God’s work. “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Matthew 6:21.

Some people are “forced” into retirement because of declining health or other reasons. Lack of financial planning also has caused great “heartache” for many elderly. God definitely promotes wise “financial” planning to secure prosperity for your family.

“A good person leaves an inheritance for their children’s children, but a sinner’s wealth is stored up for the righteous.” Proverbs 13:22. This requires lucrative productivity and excellent planning. An ideal to strive for is to be financially “capable” of not working, but continuing to work by “choice,” even if only part-time, certainly to stay “productive” and keep your “mind and body” active, as long as able.

Adopt a lifelong “mentality” of embracing work. God works, and He made us to do the same. After all, we are preparing for an “eternal” life of noble, fulfilling, productive work!

Remember God’s promise in Psalm 92: 12-14 “The righteous will flourish…They will still bear fruit in old age. They will stay fresh and green.” 

You know, it’s true that supporting a missionary is more “costly” than your average product in a Christmas catalog. Its more costly, less tangible, and slower to produce that “bang for your buck” satisfaction.

But it’s a real “investment” nonetheless. Perhaps the “greatest” investment we can make. Because when we “mobilize” a missionary, we’re not just sending off “food, clothing or literature.” We’re sending out a person to go embody the “Gospel” to a lost community.

And aren’t we glad that our Father did the same for us: “Sending not just gifts or a book from heaven, but sending a real person, Jesus Christ to save the lost?”

Missionaries don’t stop working until they die—and actually, not even then.

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Two Child Dilemma

Chinese couples becoming more reluctant to raise two kids, blaming high “living costs” and inconvenience of having a “babysitter” in small apartments.

China’s move to drop its “one-child policy” in 2016, to help address the aging issue, by permitting couples to raise two children, has reportedly not “motivated” a large number of parents to have bigger families.

A top official said rising living costs and having no one to babysit a child were two reasons preventing Chinese parents from giving birth to their second child.

“While couples could trust their first-born to the child’s grandparents, it was tough for elderly relatives to help take care of a second grandchild. It was also too costly and inconvenient to have a babysitter with small apartments,” Wang explained.

Couples in their 20s or 30s no longer shared the traditional “belief” that having more children means more “blessings.” Young couples prefer “quality parenting” when organizing their own family.

Those remarks were made by Wang Pei’an, deputy director of the National Committee of the CPPCC Population Resources and Environment Committee and vice-minister of the National Health and Family Planning Commission.

He spoke in the sixth episode of the Members’ Lecture Hall series, produced by the General Office of the National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference.

The vice-minister also believed that “infertility” was also a factor behind the low birth rates. To solve these problems, Wang suggested the government should boost spending and provide “daycare” for infants up to the age of three.

Couples of childbearing age should be motivated with “welfare benefits, including family planning leave, paternity leave, plus family and maternity insurance.”

A woman and her first daughter pose with a written promise about having the second child in their family.

Tax incentives could be an expenses “deduction” for elderly parents who support families, or “tax relief” for those who fulfill the two-child policy.

In the long run, officials should also explore the possibility of establishing of a “flexible working system for new mothers, assisting women’s balance between family and work, and ensuring women’s employment rights to encourage childbearing.”

More parents struggle with second-child dilemma
China’s two-child policy is having unintended consequences
Can China recover from its disastrous one-child policy?

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China’s Internet Control

China’s government is moving to “tighten its grip” over the internet as it rolls out “draft rules” that will effectively ban “web domains” not approved by local authorities, including the most widely used .com and .org addresses.

The “Ministry of Industry and Information Technology” is seeking feedback on regulations proposing that Internet domain names offering “domestic access” should only be provided by services “supervised” by the government, according to a notice posted on the regulator’s website.

Domain names are web locations such as .net or .cn and under the proposal, their providers have to apply to the ministry for “approval” before web addresses are allowed to “operate.”

“That could allow the government to monitor users’ activity and strengthen their control over what content is accessible,” according to Lento Yip, chairman of the Hong Kong Internet Service Providers Association.

The government of China, which has the world’s largest internet population, “blocks and filters” content from local and overseas websites to keep a tight “rein” on citizens’ access to information via the so-called “Great Firewall.”

“The domain name system will work in the background for your every single click on the browser, while the Great Firewall blocks outside content,” Yip said.

Fear grows that if this “trend” continues, we can predict that the Chinese network will soon become a big “intranet”, totally monitored by the “Big brother” network.

“The authority can block all domain name servers outside of China with the ‘Great Firewall’ and allow only domestic domain name servers to serve Chinese internet users requests.”

China employs one of the world’s most exhaustive “internet censorship” regimes to suppress dissent and information deemed “dangerous” by the Communist Party. Social-media posts can be “deleted” and search terms “blocked”, while local web users can’t “access” foreign websites including those of Google, Facebook, Twitter, Web Blogs and other social medias.

The ministry didn’t respond to a fax requesting comment on how the envisioned rules could affect internet regulation.

The government has increased “restrictions” since President Xi Jinping took power three years ago, passing a security law establishing “cyber sovereignty,” making retweets of “rumors” a crime and advancing regulations that would let companies in key sectors only use technology deemed “safe and controllable.”

“Authorities are seeking feedback on the draft until April 25. If adopted, the new rules mean that, instead of blacklisting specific sites, the government will grant access only to websites that make it onto a white-list,” said Lokman Tsui, an assistant professor at the School of Journalism and Communication at the Chinese University of Hong Kong who has advised Google on “freedom of expression and the Internet.”

“This is a serious escalation and from what I can see would be an unprecedented move,” Tsui said in an e-mail. “It doesn’t seem exclusive to .cn.”

 “China last year erected regulations to supervise domain name registrars that operate within its borders, but the new rules would be the first time it’s sought to extend its control over domains themselves,” Tsui said.

Article 37 of the proposed rules expressly puts “domain names” under central control, by blocking any not “registered” with the authorities, he said.

The wording was vague and it’s unclear whether websites hosted outside the country and administered by “The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers” (ICANN), the quasi-governmental non-profit gatekeeper for Web addresses, could be subject to the regulations.

Yip said the regulations will likely apply only to websites hosted on servers within the country.

“Domain names engaging in network access within the borders shall have services provided by domestic domain name registration service bodies,” according to the rules published.

“For domain names engaging in network access within the borders, but which are not managed by domestic domain name registration service bodies, internet access service providers may not provide network access services.”

Beijing is considering establishing a high-level inter-departmental commission to screen “internet services and hardware” as it tightens its grip over cyberspace.

The “Cyberspace Administration of China” issued a draft outline of measures to bolster “online” ­security, saying the commission would assess whether products such as “servers or internet services” could be hijacked by an outside party, and the “privacy” of users compromised. The commission would coordinate work related to the screening, the draft said.

It said government and Communist Party offices should only purchase “products or services” vetted by the committee. Operators of critical internet infrastructure that could involve “state security” should also use only approved products and services.

The leadership has been trying to foster the development of “home-grown network technology to improve cybersecurity,” and President Xi Jinping established the “Central Leading Group for Cybersecurity Affairs” in 2014, which he chairs.

Beijing has also adopted a “controversial” cybersecurity law, which requires “operators of critical information infrastructure” to store personal information and important business data within the Chinese mainland.

It has also launched a nationwide campaign against unauthorized internet connections, including “Virtual Private Networks” (VPN) that allow users to “bypass” internet regulators.

The cyberspace administration earlier vowed to help ensure the online environment was conducive to a major Communist Party congress to be held later this year.

Zuo Xiaodong, vice-president of the “China Information Security Research Institute” and an adviser on internet policies, said the latest draft was aimed at major information infrastructure and general users would not be seriously ­affected.

“Key information infrastructure include things like operation systems of key offices of the state and the party. Screening such services and products was a common ­practice in other countries” Zuo said.

“Many countries screen information products and services because of security concerns, though they might not call it censorship,” Zuo said, pointing to the difficulties telecom’s equipment makers ZTE and Huawei have encountered in the United States.

In 2012, the US House of Representatives’ Intelligence Committee said in a report that Huawei and ZTE “cannot be trusted to be free of foreign state influence and thus pose a security threat to the United States and to our systems.”

“US intelligence agencies should stay focused on efforts by Huawei and ZTE to expand in the US and inform the private sector as much as possible about the purported espionage threat” the panel’s leaders said.

The Complete List of Blocked Websites in China & How to Access Them
China’s High-Tech Surveillance State: a “Digital Despotism”
If you use Tencent’s QQ web browser your personal data is at risk, experts warn
Hackers in Greater China target online transactions, building ‘dossiers’ of information on individuals, expert says

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