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The [Friday] Papers

"When musician, producer and Invisible Records label owner Martin Atkins visited Beijing in the fall of 2006, he had no idea what to expect," Bloodshot Records writes of its Invisible China project. "What he found was a thriving underground culture of rock bands that reminded him of his time in London in the late 70's, and of the downtown scene in NYC in late 70's and early 80's. Punk, avant-guard experimentation, Brit-pop, new wave, scratch DJs and more. He signed several bands while he was there, shot 80 hours of video footage, and rented out High End Sound Studios, where he recorded tracks from well over a dozen bands. He recorded live shows at the D-22 club - a venue that embodies the spirit that CBGBs had when Martin arrived in NYC over 25 years ago.

"Both the compilation Look Directly Into The Sun: China Pop 2007 and Martin Atkins' China Dub Soundsystem album are out now, in stores, on-line, and on iTunes. Released on the Invisible China imprint (a collaboration between Invisible Records and Bloodshot Records), these album represent the first wave of material from Martin's trip to Beijing in fall of 2006."

Today's Beijing Daily
I tried to search for Daley but I didn't know the proper Chinese characters.

I'm no fan of the Chinese government and America's wimpy response to Tiananmen Square still rankles. I remember exactly where I was when that guy stood before the tank - I was at a friend's cabin in northern Minnesota and we were transfixed. Not transfixed enough to miss a night of beer-drinking later that night in town at the Wagon Wheel, but truly, we were emotionally taken by the sequence of events, as anyone should have been.

But Neil Steinberg has displayed some deeper, odd animus toward China that often reads like a John Birch Society tract against the Soviet Union from 1958.

Today Steinberg writes: "Did hosting the Olympics promote the rights of people in China?

"'Not at all,' said Xiao Nong Cheng, executive director of the Center for Modern China, a think tank in Princeton, N.J. 'This Olympics is bad, and China's people have lost even the smallest right to talk.'

"Cheng pointed out that in the run-up to the Olympics, China, terrified at losing face on the world stage, suppressed its citizens even more than usual, and that indications to the contrary - such as a recent Pew survey - are merely lies.

"'The Pew ignored a basic fact that surveys in China, according to official regulations, have to be approved, and all the data filtered,' said Cheng. 'There are no independent surveys in China. These are controlled, manipulated surveys. The data is not reliable.'"

Obviously I don't doubt China's suppression of its citizens and this scenario is entirely plausible, but I wondered whether and why Pew would go along with such restrictions - and if they disclosed them in its report.

Now, in the modern world you'd be able to click on a link in Steinberg's column to the actual report, but the Steinberg and the Sun-Times don't exist in the modern world but in some parallel historic universe where HTML hasn't yet been invented, so I searched out the report itself.

The first Pew site about the report that I landed on had this headline, which I found indeed laughable: "96% - Chinese Applaud Beijing Olympics."

Then again . . .

Digging a little deeper, though, I found a remarkable percent of Chinese surveyed apparently willing to speak their minds.

For example, In 2002, only 48 percent of Chinese polled by Pew said they were satisfied with the direction their country was going; that number rose to 86 percent in 2008. Yet just 14 percent in 2008 said they were "very satisfied" with their family life and just 4 percent said they were "very satisfied" with their jobs - a drop of 2 percent since 2002. Similarly, only 4 percent said they were "very satisfied" with their household income.

Pew also asked the Chinese to rate their country's biggest problems.

Forty-one percent said the gap between rich and poor was a "very big" problem while 48 percent said "moderately big." I wonder how Americans view this question.

The rich-poor gap, by the way, was viewed as the country's second-biggest problem, behind rising prices. The third biggest problem was corrupt officials - and the Chinese weren't afraid to say so.

Thirty-nine percent said corrupt officials were a very big problem; 37 percent said a moderately big problem. I wonder how Chicago residents would answer this question.

By the way, 78 percent said people are better off in free markets.

I downloaded the PDF of the whole report but I was unable to find any caveat by Pew as to interference in their methodology. That doesn't mean it doesn't exist, but Steinberg might have put in a call to Pew to find out.

I also took a spin around other news articles mentioning the poll. Even the Voice of America - quoting a National Journal columnist who worked on the survey - didn't question the methodology, though One News Now did.

Again, I'm not saying there wasn't interference. I'm saying you don't just print what people tell you because you want to believe it. That's dangerously close to propaganda.


"[Cheng] added that the world media, rather than turn a spotlight onto China, is instead muzzling itself in order to cover the Games."

The media inside China may be muzzled, but the whole world has been watching and reading an awful lot about China in recent months. There is no doubt that the Olympics have brought more scrutiny to the country than it otherwise would have received, and I have no doubt that in turn that's piqued the curiosity of readers and viewers who may otherwise dismiss foreign news.


The Sun-Times chose to illustrate the cover of it's wire-service written Olympic guide today with the headline "Chinese Takeout,' complete with chopsticks and a fortune cookie.


The blog of The Committee to Protect Journalists is posting about the Olympics.


Beijing's Scoff at the D-22 club

The Beachwood Tip Line: Seeing red.


Posted on August 8, 2008

MUSIC - Lyric Opera Strike Settled.
POLITICS - USA Today's Op-Ed Disaster.
SPORTS - SportsMonday: Come On, Vic!

BOOKS - Chicago Book Haul: The Dial.

PEOPLE PLACES & THINGS - Chicagoetry: West Town Blues.

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