Spielberg declines to help the Munich, er, Beijing Olympics

olympiaI am glad to hear that Steven Spielberg will not be playing the role of Leni Riefenstahl for this summer’s Olympics. How odd though that he “withdrew on Tuesday as an artistic adviser to the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing over China‘s policy on the conflict in Sudan’s Darfur region. Why worry about China’s foreign policy, given its great record on domestic repression?

Still, Spielberg is showing considerably more backbone than the UK. The British Olympic Committee voluntarily threatened to pull any of its athletes who had the temerity to speak out on “politically sensitive issues” while in China.

The controversy erupted in Britain after the Mail on Sunday newspaper reported that the BOA had threatened that any athlete who refused to sign the gag order would not be allowed to travel to China. Any British participant who signed the order and then spoke out during the Games would be sent home, according to the initial plan.

What makes this even more horrible is that it is quite clear that this ban did not come at the behest of Beijing.

According to a number of national Olympic committees in Asia contacted by AFP, China has put no pressure on countries to silence their Olympians and Sun insisted Beijing wanted to welcome all competitors.

Huzzah for the Brits and their pre-emptive strike against human rights!

Which is not to say that China doesn’t approve of the idea after the fact. The Chinese Olympic committee said, not surprisingly, that they thought this was a fine idea. Unsaid was the fact that they weren’t stupid enough to actually suggest it.

Fortunately the British Olympic Association is showing no more spine in the face of criticism of this issue than it did in issuing the ban in the first place. They are apparently caving faster than a watercress sandwich dipped in very hot tea.

Coverage of the games is going to be fascinating to watch. Sports journalists are generally not the hardest hitting reporters and I suspect their employers won’t have much interest in covering what is actually happening in the world’s largest economy.

It would be nice to think that marketers have any concern about ill-will coming from supporting the games this year. It would be nice and it would be wrong. There will be no ill-will because consumers won’t care. Certainly here in the US these will just be another Olympics in an exotic locale. There will be no news to rival Hitler declining to shake Jesse Owens’ hand. Instead their will be pomp and circumstance and more of our collective denial. Thanks to Mr. Spielberg’s decision, though, Beijing will have to look elsewhere for an overly sentimental ending.

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Raw Feed: Yahoo Apologizes to U.S. For Betraying China

Weirdly, a Yahoo executive APOLOGIZED TO THE U.S. CONGRESS yesterday for helping the Chinese government find and arrest journalist Shi Tao, who, thanks to Yahoo, is now serving a 10-year prison sentence. But why Congress? Yahoo should instead have apologized to the Chinese people for selling them out.

I couldn’t have said it better, so I’m not going to try. How do these people sleep at night?

TechDirt raises a question I also had

[Yahoo general counsel Michael Callahan is] now apologizing and saying he was ill-informed when he last appeared before Congress. That could be true, but in his new statement, Callahan admits that he realized he had misinformed Congress a few months after his original appearance, and chose not to inform them (which he regrets). However, if that’s the case, why did it take him two weeks to say that publicly after first lashing out at Congress for pointing out his clearly incorrect earlier statements?

And how does he explain this action to any children he may be related to?

Major blow to Chinese capitalism: Gov’t bans ads for push-up bras, “figure-enhancing undergarments” and sex toys

china breast adRegulators have already targeted ads using crude or suggestive language, behavior, and images, tightening their grip on television and radio a few weeks ahead of a twice-a-decade Communist Party congress at which some new senior leaders will be appointed. The latest move by the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television, or SARFT, also bans advertisements for sexual aids such as tonics that claim to boost performance in bed.

So the government wants a monopoly on lying to people?

Selling your soul doesn’t always pay: Google losing China market share

With Baidu holding a 69.5% market share in Bejing, Shanghai and Guangzhou, up 7.6% from last year, it’s a warning sign to Google and other search engines in China. Google has only fallen 1.1% to reach the 23% mark, but the growth rate of Baidu is probably a concern for the search giant. 

So does this mean they’d have been better off if they’d actually followed their alleged corporate philosophy of Democracy on the web works  and You can make money without doing evil?

Best line in the Mashable story:

This report comes at a somewhat sensitive time for Google, as the company is currently making its rounds to several countries in an effort to create and promote search privacy standards, and China has taken an opposite stance on what Google proposes.

Ah, the difficulties of trying to sell hypocrisy in the marketplace. Mr. Brin and Mr. Page, your petard is ready for hoisting.

Beijing unveils cartoon cops to police surfing habits

webcops Police in China’s capital said Tuesday will start patrolling the Web using animated beat officers that pop up on a user’s browser and walk, bike or drive across the screen warning them to stay away from illegal Internet content.

Suddenly the phrase “blue screen of death” takes on a whole new meaning. Oddly the police aren’t wearing Google or Yahoo logos.  C’mon, guys! Sponsorship opportunity!

Lessons in bad PR: China Airline paints over logo on crashed airplane

Whatever their other differences Taiwan & mainland China do have one thing in common: A total lack of PR skills.

logoCAExample 1: Taiwan’s China Airlines apparently thought that no one would noticed if they painted over the logo on the remains of one of their airplanes which exploded shortly after landing in Japan.

Television footage showed a maintenance crew in green suits whitening out the name China Airlines on the plane’s mangled body as well as the Taiwanese carrier’s plum flower emblem on its tail.

Yeah, that tells the customers that you have your priorities in order.

Meanwhile in an apparent attempt to deal with negative publicity from making poisonous and/or fatally flawed products, Beijing has resorted to the time-tested tactic of yelling, “I’m rubber and you’re glue. Whatever you say bounces off me and sticks to you.”

China said Wednesday it had found pesticides, poisonous weeds, and dirt in shipments of imported U.S. soybeans, and a toy industry representative said U.S. manufacturer Mattel Inc. was partly to blame for lead tainting that caused massive toy recalls.

Yes, I DO find all their claims entirely credible. And I just bought this beautiful golden bridge out in San Francisco.

BTW, same day the Chinese government claimed that it was all our fault a Beijing newspaper reported that a

factory sold up to 100,000 pairs of disposable chopsticks a day without any form of disinfection.

I stand ready to find out how it is the US’s fault. Or to paint them over.

Google launches on-line answer service in China

Via Read/WriteWeb:

google chinaGoogle China has released a Q&A site, in partnership with Tianya Club. The Make Meaning blog notes that Tianya Club was founded in 1999 and is one of the most popular discussion forums in China. Tianya has almost 20 million registered users, 80% of whom are 18-35 years old.

Some questions that will not be answered:

  1. Penguins Employee of the monthWhat happened at Tiananmen Square?
  2. What happened to “You can make money without doing evil”?
  3. Does this mean you’re rethinking your rethinking of playing footsie with the Chinese government?

Nice additional detail on this at Google Blogoscoped:

In other, related news Tianya.cn was recently involved in an attempt by the Chinese government to suppress the reporting on a bridge collapse in Fenghuang a week ago. Quote the Associated Press last Friday:

Communist authorities have banned most state media from reporting on the deadly collapse of a bridge in southern China, with local officials punching and chasing reporters from the scene, reporters said Friday.

The harassment and the accompanying news ban was issued by the Chinese Central Propaganda Department on Thursday, the AP writes. The AP cites a reporter saying that an unidentified mob of locals “roughed up” a group of five reporters who were interviewing the families of those who were killed in the bridge collapse.

Personal branding hits a new low as couple tries to name their kid @

AtAccording to an article the attempted naming was by a Chinese couple. Now word on if officials accepted the “@” name. But earlier this year the government announced a ban on names using Arabic numerals, foreign languages and symbols that do not belong to Chinese minority languages.

Usually I am opposed to the brutal, authoritarian Chinese government but in this case I’m making an exception.

BTW, there’s a great list of what they call that thing in other languages here. “In Mainland China it is quan a (圈a), meaning “circular a” or hua a (花a, lacy a).”

And did you know that you can’t name a category “@” on wordpress? Now you do.

Chinese still don’t “get” capitalism: Gov’t calls for ban on “sexist and sexually suggestive” ads

 “Advertisements that contain sexual hints or flirtatious language are easily seen on some local television channels,” CCTV said on its Web site.

You say that like it’s a bad thing …

Elsewhere in the case of China v. Capitalism, Beijing has tried to cash in on the “Ratatouille” craze by shipping rats to restaurants. OK. That’s a lie. But it would explain why

Live rats are being trucked from central China, suffering a plague of a reported 2 billion rodents displaced by a flooded lake, to the south to end up in restaurant dishes.

Here in Boston we don’t have to ship rats to our restaurants. They come of their own accord.

China co. uses Chelsea Clinton to brand “weight loss patches”


The “herbal weight loss patch which its makers said helped former U.S. President Bill Clinton‘s daughter, Chelsea, shed 26.5 lbs. in under a month. … Customers are instructed to stick the patch to the area of the body where they want to lose weight and then just wait for the fat to flow out of them.

Could we put one on Hillary’s head?

BTW, there’s a great list of this year’s dangerous Chinese imported products at WhoSucks.

Chinese still not entirely in-step with capitalism: Ban sale of “bags of World Cup air”

The Beijing Administration for Industry and Commerce has denied a request from The Beijing Lunar Village Aeronautics Science and Technology Co. to sell “special air from a special place.” The company, which was last seen trying to sell real estate on the moon, wanted to sell green plastic bags full of air from stadiums that hosted matches in the 2006 World Cup in Germany. The planned price: 50 yuan ($6.60) each.

Foolish Chinese.

Gilding the Commie: A 24-carat Mao

Forget the Golden Calf, how about a Golden Mao?

A 7-metre-high (23-foot) statue of Mao which has stood in Changsha in his home province of Hunan since the height of the Cultural Revolution in 1967 is being renovated by being covered in 24-carat gold plate.

OK, so we have a vaguely Communist but mostly fascist government wandering towards something resembling capitalism at its ugliest. To honor the former leader/mass murdered of said government on the 30th anniversary of his death, his hometown covers a statue of him (erected during one of his greatest killing sprees) in gold, thus making him into a faux Buddha — a belief system said leader/mass murdered tried to repress.

To paraphrase Mao’s fellow Communist mass murder Joseph Stalin, “One death is a tragedy. A million is a statistic. Erecting a gold statue of someone who killed tens of millions … Priceless.”

Ladies and Gentlemen, the Penguins of Irony have a new icon.

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Branding news from China: You may be able to Yao but you certainly can’t Mao

The Shanghai Daily news reports that a condom seller has been closed down for selling products in “inappropriate packages,” including ones bearing a likeness of Mao Zedong. (Suggested slogan: “Hey baby, want to come back to my place for a great leap forward?”) The condoms were packaged in metal containers decorated with funny pictures historical figures. According to the story, “Zhang printed China’s national emblem on a condom called ‘lady-killers’, and on the packing of the box was the image of … the country’s late Chairman Mao Zedong.” The vendor used what is perhaps the only plausible excuse in neo-capitalist China: “They were unimaginably hot sellers.”
Meanwhile another Chinese entrepreneur has is trying to register Yao Ming’s name for use on a line of women’s sanitary products. Oddly, neither doctors nor brand experts have been able to find any connection between the 7 foot 5 inch tall basketball star and menses.

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Sparklers, snakes & salutes*

*Salutes was what we in RI called the basic small firecracker that you would light up and it would go bang without damaging your hand if you were dumb enough to have it explode on you (refuses to disclose how he knows this but OWWW). What are these called elsewhere in the US?