Blogging from a blogger’s desert

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The conference banner outside the BICC

Another week without a blog entry from me. There is a simple explanation for it. I attended an international conference in Beijing, China, which was a great success also for the host, the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Science (CAAS).

But whereas blogging from rural Australia was just an infrastructural challenge, this time the great firewall of China prevented me from communicating and reaching my blogging platform: wordpress.com.

It prevented me also from accessing my facebook and twitter accounts and various other sites of interest, for instance the Open Wine Consortium (which uses a NING platform format). Needless to say that youtube was also down.

I am not a political blogger, just a wine and food enthusiast, and by training an agricultural economist which was the main reason why I attended the 27th International Conference of the Association of Agricultural Economists (16-22 August 2009) titled: “The new landscape of global agriculture”.

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Experts on the dais

To say it from the outset, the conference was a full success. It was just great. I cannot but praise our Chinese host and the organizing committee as well as the Chinese agricultural organizations involved in its preparation and conduct.

The highest level of the Chinese government gave full support to the event and thereby to a field in public policy which had been largely neglected by the global financial institutions and many national governments alike during the last two decades. Vice premier Hui Lianyu, a native of Jilin province and a Chinese Muslim (Hui nationality), officially opened the event.

The great firewall of China, however, prevented me from publicly heaping praise on the Chinese government and the organizers, because I could not access the internet. Well, to be precise I could access some sites of the internet. We also had wlan-wifi connections during the duration of the event but the censorship exercised by the Chinese government did not allow for life reporting. A shame, good things could not enter the bloggosshere. There is a cost to such kind of censorship policy. China misses a chance to improve its public image.

Moreover, I wonder how many of the world’s top creative people would bother coming to a place where they are cut off from the world, their creative batteries, their inspiration and their audience for so long and from where the results of creative processes could not immediately find their way into the world wide web. This is another part of the costs incurred by the censorship policy.

We all know that the control of the internet by governments is a rat’s race. The whiz-kids, digital natives and techno freaks of this world, the Davids, to speak in biblical terms, are magically drawn to places like China in order to show and test their skills in beating Goliath: the Communist government. And therefore it is no surprise that there is ample support out there for trapped bloggers and others to circumvent the censors and jump over the great firewall of China by using proxy servers, and software designed to avert control. Alas, we are not alone in this tech-world of the 21st century.

Congratulations again to our Chinese partners for hosting such an important international event. May your government realize that it has more to gain than to fear from co-operation, sharing and the reciprocity through the inter connectivity of the world community and finally give up the censorship of the internet.

And then there is the saying of Mahatma Gandhi:

“When I despair, I remember that all through history the way of truth and love has always triumphed. There have been tyrants and autocrats, and for a time they seem to be invincible but in the end they always fail.”

It’s better to change when there is time for it. The communist party of China has shown wisdom in the past when it came to points of no return, for instance when they tolerated that farmers dissolved communes on their own accord and without prior sanctioning of the party. Let us hope they can draw on this wisdom also when considering the censorship policy.

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