No change in forty years, 焦國標 Jiao Guobian on propaganda

Much is being made of 焦國標 Jiao Guobian, journalism professor at Beijing University who wrote a vitriolic attack against the Central Propaganda Department. In language rich in hyperbole, the essay’s publication has been perceived as the emergence of a power struggle in the Communist Party, in which Jiao has the backing of party Elders in attacking the hardline group allied to Jiang Zemin and demanding more democratic and media freedoms.

The New York Times ran a lengthy article on the current political climate in China at the publication of this essay:

The department is spiteful like the Nazis, he wrote in a recent essay. It thinks itself infallible like the pope. In the 1950’s it covered up the starvation of millions of people. Today, he charged, it lies about SARS.

“Their censorship orders are totally groundless, absolutely arbitrary, at odds with the basic standards of civilization, and as counter to scientific common sense as witches and wizardry,” he wrote in the article – which has been widely circulated by Internet in Beijing despite, not unpredictably, being banned by the Communist Party’s propaganda department.

EastWestNorthSouth has circulated a rough translation of Jiao’s essay with commentary on the style and content which addresses some troubling aspects of Jiao’s attack, notably personal attacks on character and uncritical admiration for the US political system. While broadly agreeing with the issues Jiao raises, there remain questions, in particular wondering what he hopes to achieve by such a blatant baiting of the government, when dissidents have ended up serving lengthy prison terms for much less.

ID Sniper debuts at China Police weapons fair

In June 2002, Jacob S. Boeskov, the CEO of Empire North, a young Danish Hi-Tech weapons company travelled to Beijing for CIEPE (China International Exhibition on Police Equipment – the first international weapons fair in China . His product was the ID Sniper, a high-velocity sniper rifle that implants a GPS-microchip into a person in order to trace their movements or facilitate arrest in a later, more controllable situation.

While the product was only in the research and development stage, and no working model existed, the ID Sniper was a hit at the fair, and representatives of the Chinese Police and Ministry of Security were eager to sign a blank-cheque contract to move the entire production of the ID Sniper and Empire North to China.

Luckily they didn’t realise Jacob S. Boeskov is an artist from Copenhagen, and the whole thing, ID Sniper, Empire North, was a nightmarish hacking of reality that formed his exhibition My Doomsday Weapon, currently showing at The Thing in New York.

The idea was to come up with the most terrible weapon imaginable, and to test it in a real environment. We had three days to finish up the weapon. Our fake company, Empire North, already had a logo and a slogan (”The Logical Solution” aping the Nazi classic “The Final Solution”) but we had no weapon yet. Genius designer Von B and I worked overtime, and in two days we had the ID Sniper ready.

Boris wrote a detailed account of the whole trip, from designing the weapon to the three days in Beijing schmoozing with international playboy weapons dealers, sweaty hyperactive Chinese police, wall-to-wall teenage goodtime girls, and a diet of stomach cramps, greasy noodles, beer and valium.

Boeskov describes the 3 days at the weapons fair as “the worst 3 days of my life, like being trapped inside a nightmarish sci-fi novel that you authored yourself.”

With MY DOOMSDAY WEAPON, Boeskov develops what he calls “Fictionalism,” illustrating a need for political art to take risks by “hacking reality.” He asks artists to “Turn your worst fears about the future into a product. Present this product in present day reality. Report the reactions.”

If you’ve ever wondered how the police in China function, and how the ideals of the government are represented this truly creepy story is a must-read.