China’s Economic Surge Not Shared by Consumers and Small Businesses

(p. B1) Factories are whirring, new apartments are being snapped up, and more jobs are up for grabs. When China released its new economic figures on Friday, they showed a remarkable postpandemic surge.

The question is whether small businesses and Chinese consumers can fully share in the good times.

China reported on Friday that its economy grew by a jaw-dropping 18.3 percent in the first three months of the year compared with the same period last year. While the figure is steep, it is as much a reflection of the past — the country’s output shrank 6.8 percent in the first quarter of 2020 from a year earlier — as it is an indication of how China is doing now.

A year ago, entire cities were shut down, planes were grounded and highways were blocked to control the spread of a relentless virus. Today, global demand for computer screens and video consoles that China makes is soaring as people work from home and as a pandemic recovery beckons. That demand has continued as Americans with stimulus checks look to spend money on patio furniture, electronics and other goods made in Chinese factories.

China’s recovery has also been powered by big infrastructure. Cranes dot city skylines. Construction projects for highways and railroads have provided short-term jobs. Property sales have also helped strengthen economic activity.

But exports and property investment can carry China’s growth only so far.

. . .

(p. B3) A slow vaccination rollout and fresh memories of lockdowns have left many consumers in the country skittish.  . . .  When virus outbreaks occur, the Chinese authorities are quick to put new lockdowns in place, hurting small businesses and their customers.

. . .

Families continue to save at a higher rate than they did before the pandemic, something that worries economists like Louis Kuijs, who is head of Asian economics at Oxford Economics. Mr. Kuijs is looking at household savings as an indication of whether Chinese consumers are ready to start splurging after months of being stuck at home.

“More people still seem to not go all the way in terms of carefree spending,” he said. “At times there are still some lingering Covid concerns, but there is perhaps also a concern about the general economic situation.”

. . .

Mr. [Jinqiu] Li, who is recently married and has a baby at home, is still choosing to save instead of spend. He had planned to work for the family business, but it has been hit by the pandemic and he doesn’t think there is much opportunity for him if he stays.

“The whole family has some sense of crisis,” Mr. Li said. “Because of the pandemic and because of family business, I have a sense of crisis.”

For the full story, see:

Alexandra Stevenson and Cao Li. “China’s Gain Is Hardly Felt by the People.” The New York Times (Friday, April 16, 2021): B1 & B3.

(Note: ellipses, and bracketed first name, added.)

(Note: the online version of the article has the date April 15, 2021, and has the title “China’s Economy Is Booming. Shoppers Are Skittish Anyway.” The quote starting “More people” appeared in the print, but not in the online, version of the article.)

More Evidence Xi Jinping Believes in Marx’s Communism

(p. A11) Mr. Biden this month published his Interim National Security Strategic Guidance. The document puts China in a category by itself as “the only competitor potentially capable of combining its economic, diplomatic, military, and technological power to mount a sustained challenge to a stable and open international system.”

In his signed introduction to the document, Mr. Biden wrote: “I believe we are in the midst of a historic and fundamental debate about the future direction of our world. There are those who argue that, given all the challenges we face, autocracy is the best way forward. . . . We must prove that our model isn’t a relic of history; it’s the single best way to realize the promise of our future.”

This candor is helpful. Beijing’s dirty secret is that Mr. Xi, in his internal speeches, has for years been describing the competition in precisely these ideological terms. Consider a passage from his seminal speech—kept secret for six years—to the Communist Party Central Committee on Jan. 5, 2013.

“There are people who believe that communism is an unattainable hope, or even that it is beyond hoping for—that communism is an illusion. . . . Facts have repeatedly told us that Marx and Engels’s analysis of the basic contradictions in capitalist society is not outdated, nor is the historical-materialist view that capitalism is bound to die out and socialism is bound to win. This is an inevitable trend in social and historical development. But the road is tortuous. The eventual demise of capitalism and the ultimate victory of socialism will require a long historical process to reach completion.”

The Biden and Xi quotations are almost mirror images of each other. The president’s quotation serves as a belated American rejoinder to Mr. Xi’s furtive call for the defeat of capitalism and democracy, which he made during President Obama’s first term.

For the full commentary, see:

Matt Pottinger. “Beijing Targets American Business.” The Wall Street Journal Saturday, March 27, 2021): A11.

(Note: ellipses in original.)

(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date March 26, 2021, and has the same title as the print version.)

Chinese Chip Central Planning Creates “Stunning Absurdities That Defy Logic and Common Sense”

(p. B1) Liu Fengfeng had more than a decade under his belt at one of the world’s most prominent technology companies before he realized where the real gold rush in China was taking place.

Computer chips are the brains and souls of all the electronics the country’s factories crank out. Yet they are mostly designed and produced overseas. China’s government is lavishing money upon anyone who can help change that.

. . .

(p. B2) In a way, China is hoping to achieve the same kind of liftoff that helped it progress from making plastic toys to crafting solar panels.

With semiconductors, though, “the model starts to break down a little bit,” said Jay Goldberg, a tech industry consultant and former Qualcomm executive. The technology is eye-wateringly expensive to develop, and established players have spent decades accumulating know-how. Europe, Mr. Goldberg noted, once had many “incredible” chip companies. Japan’s chip makers are leaders in certain specialized products, but few would call them bold innovators.

“My point is, there is a ladder — China’s moving up it,” Mr. Goldberg said. But it’s “unclear which outcome they go to.”

. . .

At a top-level meeting on the economy last week, the Communist Party’s leaders enshrined technological self-reliance as one of the country’s “Five Fundamentals” for economic development.

Complete self-sufficiency in chips, however, would mean recreating every part of the lengthy supply chains for some of the most complex technology on earth — a mission that would seem to lead, if not to madness, at least to waste.

. . .

“Up until very recently — this year — the goal had been: With state backing, move up the value chain, specialize where China has a comparative advantage, but don’t really try and fall down the rabbit hole of trying to build everything yourself,” said Jimmy Goodrich, the vice president for global policy at the Semiconductor Industry Association, a group that represents American chip companies.

Now, “it’s very clear that Xi Jinping is calling for a redundant domestic supply chain,” Mr. Goodrich said. “And so the rules of economics, comparative advantage and the supply-chain efficiencies have basically been thrown out the door.”

The government is conscious of the dangers. State-run news outlets have amply covered the recent semiconductor flameouts. The message to other upstarts: Don’t mess it up.

When the state broadcaster China Central Television visited one stalled project in the eastern city of Huai’an recently, it found dozens of giant machines idling on the factory floor, many of them still sheathed in plastic.

“There have been some stunning absurdities that defy logic and common sense,” China Economic Weekly said.

. . .

“There is definitely a bubble in China,” he said. “But you can’t overgeneralize.”

. . .

“Something is bound to accumulate, whether it’s equipment, talent or factories, right?” Mr. Liu said. “If not you or the other guy, then it will be someone else who ends up using it. I think this might be the government’s logic.”

For the full story, see:

Raymond Zhong and Cao Li. “China’s Frenzy to Master Chip Manufacturing.” The New York Times (Monday, December 28, 2020): B1-B2.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date Dec. 24, 2020, and has the title “With Money, and Waste, China Fights for Chip Independence.”)

Hacked Trove of Documents Show China’s “Weaponized System of Censorship”

(p. 1) In the early hours of Feb. 7 [2021], China’s powerful internet censors experienced an unfamiliar and deeply unsettling sensation. They felt they were losing control.

The news was spreading quickly that Li Wenliang, a doctor who had warned about a strange new viral outbreak only to be threatened by the police and accused of peddling rumors, had died of Covid-19. Grief and fury coursed through social media. To people at home and abroad, Dr. Li’s death showed the terrible cost of the Chinese government’s instinct to suppress inconvenient information.

Yet China’s censors decided to double down. Warning of the “unprecedented challenge” Dr. Li’s passing had posed and the “butterfly effect” it may have set off, officials got to work suppressing the inconvenient news and reclaiming the narrative, according to confidential directives sent to local propaganda workers and news outlets.

They ordered news websites not to issue push notifications alerting readers to his death. They told social platforms to gradually remove his name from trending topics pages. And they activated legions of fake online commenters to flood social sites with distracting chatter, stressing the need for discretion: “As commenters fight to guide public opinion, they must conceal their identity, avoid crude patriotism and sarcastic praise, and be sleek and silent in achieving results.”

The orders were among thousands of secret government directives and other documents that were reviewed by The New York(p. 14)Times and ProPublica. They lay bare in extraordinary detail the systems that helped the Chinese authorities shape online opinion during the pandemic.

At a time when digital media is deepening social divides in Western democracies, China is manipulating online discourse to enforce the Communist Party’s consensus. To stage-manage what appeared on the Chinese internet early this year, the authorities issued strict commands on the content and tone of news coverage, directed paid trolls to inundate social media with party-line blather and deployed security forces to muzzle unsanctioned voices.

. . .

The documents include more than 3,200 directives and 1,800 memos and other files from the offices of the country’s internet regulator, the Cyberspace Administration of China, in the eastern city of Hangzhou. They also include internal files and computer code from a Chinese company, Urun Big Data Services, that makes software used by local governments to monitor internet discussion and manage armies of online commenters.

The documents were shared with The Times and ProPublica by a hacker group that calls itself C.C.P. Unmasked, referring to the Chinese Communist Party. The Times and ProPublica independently verified the authenticity of many of the documents, some of which had been obtained separately by China Digital Times, a website that tracks Chinese internet controls.

. . .

“China has a politically weaponized system of censorship; it is refined, organized, coordinated and supported by the state’s resources,” said Xiao Qiang, a research scientist at the School of Information at the University of California, Berkeley, and the founder of China Digital Times. “It’s not just for deleting something. They also have a powerful apparatus to construct a narrative and aim it at any target with huge scale.”

“This is a huge thing,” he added. “No other country has that.”

For the full story, see:

Raymond Zhong, Paul Mozur, Jeff Kao and Aaron Krolik. “‘Be Sleek and Silent’: How China Censored Bad News About Covid.” The New York Times, First Section (Sunday, December 20, 2020): 1 & 14.

(Note: ellipses, and bracketed year, added.)

(Note: the online version of the story was updated Jan. [sic] 13, 2021, and has the title “No ‘Negative’ News: How China Censored the Coronavirus.”)

In the Early Fight Against COVID-19 in China “Front-Line Bureaucrats Were Consumed With Paperwork”

(p. A15) After Chinese leader Xi Jinping ordered rural poverty eliminated by 2020, bureaucrats in the southwestern city of Mianyang got busy—with paperwork.

Instructed to devote 70% of their time to the campaign, they diligently filled out forms certifying compliance, a practice known as “leaving marks,” said Pang Jia, a local judicial clerk who joined the effort. When higher-ups demanded photographic proof of their home visits, some aid workers made up for missing winter photos by posing in cold-weather clothing during summer house calls, Ms. Pang said.

Since taking power in late 2012, Mr. Xi has realigned Chinese politics with his domineering style and a top-down drive to forge a centralized state under the Communist Party. But his efforts are running into an old foe: bureaucracy.

Party observers say the drive for centralization in a sprawling nation too often fosters bureaucratic inertia, duplicity and other(p. A10)unproductive practices that are aimed at satisfying Beijing and protecting careers but threaten to undermine Mr. Xi’s goals.

Indeed, some local officials have become so focused on pleasing Mr. Xi and fulfilling party mandates that they can neglect their basic duties as public servants, sometimes with dire results.

As the new coronavirus spread in Wuhan in late 2019, for instance, local authorities were afraid to share bad news with Beijing. That impeded the national response and contributed to the death toll, according to a Wall Street Journal investigation.

Mr. Xi and other senior officials publicly lamented how front-line bureaucrats were consumed with paperwork instead of fighting the contagion. Officials dedicated hours each day to filling out multiple documents for agencies making overlapping requests for information, including residents’ body temperatures and symptoms.

For the full story, see:

Chun Han Wong. “Xi Jinping’s Eager Minions Snarl His China Plans.” The Wall Street Journal (Monday, March 8, 2021): A15.

(Note: the online version of the story has the date March 7, 2021, and has the title “Xi Jinping’s Eager-to-Please Bureaucrats Snarl His China Plans.”)

WHO Team Unable to Conduct a Thorough and Impartial Study of Wuhan Origin of Covid-19

(p. A1) . . . , as the WHO-led team finalizes its full report on the Wuhan mission, a Wall Street Journal investigation has uncovered fresh details about the team’s formation and constraints that reveal how little power it had to conduct a thorough, impartial examination—and call into question the clarity its findings appeared to provide.

. . .

(p. A10) The WHO asked the U.S. to recommend government experts for the team, but it didn’t contact the three that Washington put forward, according to current and former U.S. officials.

. . .

On Jan. 23, 2020, a WHO emergency committee recommended that a WHO-led group of scientists should “review and support efforts to investigate the animal source of the outbreak.”

. . .

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the WHO’s director-general, discussed the matter with President Xi Jinping in a January 28 meeting. The next month, a WHO-led team, including two U.S. government experts, visited China.

Local officials appeared committed to a search and described work they had under way, according to people on that trip. But no studies emerged over the following weeks.

. . .

The team included leading specialists in animal health, epidemiology and virology, and government experts from Germany, Russia and Japan.

It included one scientist from the U.S.: Peter Daszak, a zoologist and president of EcoHealth Alliance, a New York-based nonprofit.

Dr. Daszak had experience hunting for the origins of emerging human viruses in animals, including 16 years working with researchers in China. He was on a team that pinpointed bats as the source of the coronavirus behind SARS.

Some U.S. officials and scientists were concerned some of his nonprofit’s work in China posed a conflict of interest. EcoHealth had in past years provided funding to the Wuhan Institute of Virology as part of a grant from the U.S. National Institutes of Health. The WIV is at the center of assertions by the Trump administration that the pandemic virus could have come from a lab, and Dr. Daszak had publicly dismissed the possibility.

In applying for a spot on the team, Dr. Daszak said, he described his expertise and provided a conflict-of-interest statement to the WHO including his work with the WIV.

. . .

On Jan. 28 [2021], a year to the day from the WHO director-general’s meeting with President Xi, they were cleared to begin field visits and face-to-face meetings with Chinese counterparts. For the remainder of the trip, they were restricted mainly to one part of a hotel due to more quarantine rules and forced to eat separately from Chinese counterparts—preventing the kind of informal conversations team members said were often the most fruitful in such efforts. Their contact with anyone outside the team was limited.

It soon became evident to foreign officials and scientists tracking the mission that the team’s itinerary was partly designed to bolster China’s official narrative that the government moved swiftly to control the virus. The team’s first visit was to a hospital where they met a doctor Beijing feted as the first to raise alarms through official channels about an outbreak of unknown pneumonia. The next day, after another hospital visit, the team went to an exhibition commemorating Chinese authorities’ early “decisive victory in the battle” against the virus, paying tribute to President Xi’s leadership.

. . .

Team members said it became clear to them that Chinese authorities would mostly present only their data analysis, not the raw numbers. And they hadn’t completed some short-term tasks the team had hoped for, including detailed studies of blood samples from before December 2019 and compiling a definitive list of animals sold at the Huanan market.

Among the 30 to 60 Chinese participants were nonscientists, including foreign-ministry officials, team members said. China’s team leader has said his team included 17 experts. The Chinese foreign ministry said none of its officials were in the expert group.

A heated exchange during one meeting touched on the pivotal question of how widely the virus spread around Wuhan before the first confirmed case, who Chinese officials say got sick on Dec. 8, 2019.

. . .

After leaving Wuhan, some international team members qualified their verdict on the laboratory. They lacked the authority, expertise or access to conduct a full examination of the WIV or any other research facility, several said publicly or to the Journal.

Several said that they hadn’t been able to see the raw data or original safety, personnel, experiment and animal-breeding logs—which many other scientists say are necessary elements of a full investigation.

“It’s just a great coup by China,” said Daniel Lucey, a clinical professor of medicine at the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth who also teaches at Georgetown University.

A thorough investigation of a potential lab leak would require experts with forensic skills similar to those who do weapons or biowarfare inspections, scientists including Dr. Dwyer said.

“We didn’t see the actual data there,” Dr. Dwyer said. “It would be nice to have seen that, particularly around the testing of their staff and so on. But that didn’t come through. They could still provide that.”

For the full story, see:

Jeremy Page, Betsy McKay, and Drew Hinshaw. “WHO’s Hunt for Covid’s Origins Stumbled in China.” The Wall Street Journal (Thursday, March 5, 2021): A1 & A10.

(Note: ellipses, and bracketed year, added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date March 17, 2021, and has the title “How the WHO’s Hunt for Covid’s Origins Stumbled in China.” Where there were differences in wording between the online and the print versions, the passages quoted above follow the online version.)

Gerardo Guillén García del Barco Wants to Build in Cuba “Without Being Hindered by Bureaucracy”

(p. A10) HAVANA — Car dealerships, book publishing and hedge funds are still prohibited. Bed-and-breakfasts are not. Zoos, scuba diving centers and weapons production remain banned. Veterinary services aren’t.

As Cuba’s Communist government continues its piecemeal expansion of the fledgling private sector, Cubans are carefully parsing a list of the economic activities that the government proposes to keep under its control.

. . .

The new list seems to open major new space for manufacturing. Cubans will now be able to apply for licenses to open cheese, paint and toy factories, for example, though the government has not yet defined the permitted size of such ventures.

While some Cubans hailed the list as an important step forward in the country’s economic liberalization, it left others complaining that the government had not gone far enough.

“It’s messed up,” said Gerardo Guillén García del Barco, 26, an architect in Havana whose profession the government plans to maintain under its sole control. “Every time something appears that looks like a panacea, it ends in nothing.”

“My dream is to do exactly what I’m doing today but within a legal framework,” he said, explaining that he left a government firm and now works freelance without a license. “I want to do my own architecture without being hindered by bureaucracy.”

. . .

Last Saturday [Feb. 6, 2021], in announcing the planned expansion of private economic activity, Marta Elena Feitó, Cuba’s labor and social security minister, said that the changes would “unleash the productive forces” of the population.

For the full story, see:

Ed Augustin and Kirk Semple. “Cubans Study a Shrinking List of Prohibited Private Enterprises.” The New York Times (Friday, February 12, 2021): A10.

(Note: ellipses, and bracketed date, added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date Feb. 11, 2021, and has the title “Cubans Study a Shrinking List of Banned Private Enterprises.”)

Successful Chinese Entrepreneur Stands Trial for Defending Free Speech

(p. A10) Like many entrepreneurs in China, Geng Xiaonan found a space in which to make a small fortune — in her case, publishing books on cooking, health and lifestyle.

But unlike many Chinese entrepreneurs, she mixed with critics of the party, organizing dinners and salons that brought together liberal intellectuals, retired officials and longtime dissenters.

Now, Ms. Geng is set to stand trial in Beijing on Tuesday [Feb. 9, 2021] and may spend years in prison for her support for those at odds with China’s deepening authoritarianism, her supporters say. She and her husband, Qin Zhen, have been charged with illegal business activities related to their publishing company. Friends and sympathetic legal experts maintain that her real offense in the eyes of the government was straying from business into sympathizing with critics of Communist Party power.

Ms. Geng, 46, came under growing surveillance last year after she leapt to the defense of Xu Zhangrun, a law professor in Beijing who was suspended after publishing essays scathingly critical of the party and its top leader, Xi Jinping.

“This is simply political persecution,” said Cai Xia, a former professor at the Central Party School in Beijing, who said she had been friends with Ms. Geng for about eight years. Ms. Cai has moved to the United States, where she has denounced the Chinese Communist Party’s tightening of political controls.

“It’s a selective system of enforcement,” Ms. Cai added. “They can make up whatever they want when they want to slap a crime on you.”

Ms. Geng is the latest among a handful of Chinese entrepreneurs detained or imprisoned since last year as the party draws a harder line on businesspeople it deems challengers of Beijing’s rule.

For the full story, see:

Chris Buckley. “Chinese Entrepreneur Was Model of Success, Then She Got Too Close to Critics of the Party.” The New York Times (Tues., February 9, 2021): A10.

(Note: bracketed date added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date Feb. 8, 2021, and has the title “This Chinese Businesswoman Was a Model of Success. Then She Angered the Party.”)

Many Chinese Have “Desperate Need” to “Hear Different View Points”

(p. A1) One by one, the chatroom participants took the digital microphone as thousands quietly listened in.

A Chinese man said he did not know whether to believe the widespread reports of concentration camps for Muslims in the far western region of Xinjiang. Then a Uighur woman spoke up, calmly explaining that she was certain of the camps’ existence because her relatives had been among those interned. A man from Taiwan chimed in to urge understanding on all sides, while another from Hong Kong praised the woman for her courage in coming forward.

It was a rare moment of cross-border dialogue with people on the mainland of China, who are usually separated from the rest of the online world by the Great Firewall. For a short time, they found an open forum on the social media app, Clubhouse, to discuss con-(p. A10)tentious topics, free from the usual constraints of the country’s tightly controlled internet.

By Monday [Feb. 8, 2021] evening, the inevitable happened: The Chinese censors moved in. Many mainland users reported receiving error messages when they tried to use the platform. Some said they could only access the app by tunneling through the digital border using a VPN, or virtual private network. Within hours, more than a thousand users had tuned in to hear a discussion about the ban in a chatroom titled “Walled off, so now what?” Searches for “Clubhouse” on the popular Chinese social media platform Weibo were blocked.

To many users in mainland China, it was a brief window into an unfettered social media. Under China’s leader, Xi Jinping, the government has been ramping up its efforts to assert near-total digital control over what its citizens read and say online.

. . .

“Clubhouse is exactly what Chinese censors don’t want to see in online communication — a massive, freewheeling conversation in which people are talking openly,” said Xiao Qiang, founder of China Digital Times, a website that tracks Chinese internet controls. “It’s also a reminder that when there is an opportunity, many Chinese have a desperate need to talk to each other and to hear different view points.”

For the full story, see:

Amy Chang Chien and Amy Qin. “A Virtual Space for Chinese Debate Disappears.” The New York Times (Tues., February 9, 2021): A1 & A10.

(Note: ellipsis, and bracketed date, added.)

(Note: the online version of the story was updated Feb. 25, 2021, and has the title “In China, an App Offered Space for Debate. Then the Censors Came.”)

Chinese People Yearn for Freedom of Speech

(p. B1) For years, the Chinese government has prevented its 1.4 billion people from speaking freely online. A digital wall separated them from the rest of the world.

Then, for a precious few days, that wall was breached.

Clubhouse, a new social media app that emerged faster than the censors could block it, became a place for Mandarin Chinese speakers from the mainland and anywhere else to speak their minds. They had a lot to say.

. . .

The Chinese government blocked the app Monday [Feb. 8, 2021] afternoon. I knew it was coming, and yet I still didn’t expect to feel so dismayed.

For that brief moment, people in China proved that they are as creative and well spoken as (p. B6) people who enjoy the freedom to express themselves. They lined up, sometimes for hours, to wait for their turns to speak. They argued for the rights of the government loyalists to speak despite their disagreements. They held many honest, sincere conversations, sometimes with tears and sometimes with laughter.

Those conversations helped illuminate why the Chinese government blocks free speech online in the first place. Those free-flowing exchanges threaten to debunk the caricatures that the state-controlled media often foists upon the Chinese people. The state media dismisses people like the Tiananmen protesters, pro-democracy advocates in Hong Kong or those in Taiwan who want the island to take a different path from the mainland.

Likewise, mainlanders got a chance to prove that they aren’t brainwashed drones. People who had been demonized got a chance to speak out and be humanized.

Over the past two decades, Beijing has developed the most sophisticated online censorship system in the world. Big online platforms like Google, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube were blocked long ago. Under Xi Jinping’s leadership, a growing number of topics have become off limits on the Chinese internet. Clubhouse gave mainland Chinese users a chance to flock to chatrooms focused on those taboos.

. . .

Several chatrooms were devoted to the bloody crackdown in Tiananmen Square, a heavily censored topic on the Chinese internet. Cai Chongguo, a student leader during the protests, talked for about four hours, sharing his stories and answering questions from thousands of people.

. . .

Even during the freewheeling conversation, censorship was on the minds of many. On Monday afternoon, one room that reached Clubhouse’s maximum of 5,000 users featured speakers sharing their concerns over whether they would be questioned by the authorities for speaking out on the app.

. . .

A few hours later, mainland users began to report that the app had been blocked. Several rooms were set up immediately for people to chat it over. I joined a room for people to mourn the blocking.

The title of the room featured three candle emoticons. People lined up to share their most memorable experience. A few speakers cried.

. . .

Ms. Sun, who lives in Germany, had never talked about such politically sensitive topics with strangers. Then, on Saturday, she had waited more than two hours to speak in a chatroom about those very topics with thousands of people from mainland China, Taiwan, Hong Kong and other parts of the world.

Someday, she said in an interview, Chinese people would be able to talk freely. Many Eastern Germans didn’t expect the Berlin Wall to fall in 1989, she added, but it happened.

“Nobody can predict the future,” Ms. Sun said. “We should believe in humanity and humanity’s yearning for freedom.”

For the full commentary, see:

Li Yuan. “THE NEW NEW WORLD; China’s Spirit Shines Behind Firewall.” The New York Times (Wednesday, February 10, 2021): B1 & B6.

(Note: ellipses, and bracketed date, added.)

(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date Feb. 9, 2021, and has the title “THE NEW NEW WORLD; The Great Firewall Cracked, Briefly. A People Shined Through.”)

Clubhouse Tests the Market for Live Unfiltered Talk

(p. B1) Clubhouse and other audio-based social networks are attracting users with a simple appeal: hearing another human voice.

. . .

(p. B4) Clubhouse could be successful in building paid features because of its air of exclusivity—an invitation is required to join, but easy to procure—and the high-profile names coming to converse on the platform, including Facebook Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg, Tesla Inc. CEO Elon Musk, actor Lindsay Lohan and Brad Parscale, one-time campaign manager for former President Donald Trump.

. . .  Mr. Musk’s appearance had in part helped drive an influx of China-based users to Clubhouse, where they participated in a rare outpouring of free debate on topics that are taboo in China, until Beijing’s censors this week appeared to cut off access to the app.

Any Clubhouse user can create a virtual room with designated speakers to discuss any topic, for example the merits of bitcoin, startup-building advice, stand-up comedy, or recovery from childhood trauma. Poetry readings, bedtime serenades and guided meditation are on offer. A number of the conversations are about Clubhouse itself, with users dissecting the app, lamenting its shortcomings and complaining about other users.

Tech executives have questioned the staying power of an app with so few guardrails for the length and quality of conversation and no way to filter out idle chatter.

. . .

As with seemingly all online communities, the challenge of moderation looms. Live audio is tougher to moderate than text or images, . . .

For the full story, see:

Heather Somerville. “Social Networks With A Voice Draw Users.” The Wall Street Journal (Friday, Feb 12, 2021): B1 & B4.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date February 11, 2021, and has the title “Clubhouse Wins Over Hollywood, Tech, Even Elon Musk. Are You Next?”)