菜單 取消

Author: Callum (高林)

澳不能再像盲人一樣跟從“大國”

專有里約奧運會直播版權的澳洲國家電台(Channel 7)在奧運會開幕式直播中只給了中國代表團2-3秒時間,中間插播15秒廣告。這家電視台還把金牌榜上的中國國旗誤為智利國旗,被網友拍到並在社交媒體上傳播。

中澳關係近來處於一個非常尷尬的階段。與中國簽約自由貿易協定不到一年的澳大利亞,享有來自中國的多方面支持,無論是在貿易、旅遊還是其他方面,中澳關係已經達到互利互惠的友好程度。但正在此時,澳大利亞率先表態支持所謂南海仲裁結果,澳大利亞媒體對《環球時報》的“紙貓”批評反應強烈,Channel 7所為此時被中國網友解讀為澳大利亞媒體“反華”的表現,當然無可厚非。

在南海問題上,澳大利亞有必要為了所謂的政治利益與中國“鬧翻”嗎?澳大利亞政府態度背後的利益考量不言而喻。然而,南海糾紛是當事國間的問題,自然由當事國通過協商和平解決。澳大利亞前外交部長鮑勃·卡爾曾多次強調,澳不應隨時和美日立場保持一致,澳要警惕淪為美國在亞太地區的“副警長”。但由於各種偏見和誤導,這樣理性的聲音在澳國內喑啞了。

在社會層面,中澳兩國間近期的一系列矛盾更多源於誤解。在澳大利亞媒體的誤導下,澳民眾對中國的認識既有價值觀上的誤解,也有對事實的誤讀。我想問:在澳大利亞,有多少人連自己的總理是不是投票直選都不清楚就去評判國際事件?有多少人以為臨時仲裁庭的所謂判決是由聯合國作出的“公正”決定?

當下的澳大利亞國內,種族主義正在抬頭。這種低俗文化的傳遞者,往往是下層白人,他們通過低級而無知的排外言論表達自己對社會和自我的不滿。隨着中國的崛起,令這些人感到所謂的“中國危機”。中國人有錢,來澳大利亞投資炒房,有些澳大利亞人買不起就“不爽”;中國人有知識和技術,以自由貿易協定所規定的457簽證身份來澳大利亞工作,有些人怕飯碗沒了就慌;中國經濟發展太快了,有些人看不慣。

澳大利亞是個多元文化融合和高度開放的社會,目前有80多萬華人在此定居,接近人口總數的4.0%。別看華人比例小,這個群體做事情通常是“一窩蜂”,聯袂而至。澳大利亞人對華人的不滿和調侃確有,但絕不存在對華人群體的歷史性偏見。作為一家獨立媒體公司,Channel 7不代表國家政府,也不代表澳洲大眾,它的命運最終將由市場決定。

在經濟上,中澳兩國一直是好夥伴,即便澳大利亞媒體的涉華報道浮躁、炒作、偏激,中澳關係仍一如既往。悉尼機場外貼着全中文的交通銀行、國窖等廣告牌,在澳中國留學生日益增長,還有越來越多的澳洲人重視學漢語。作為夥伴,澳大利亞不能再把中澳關係視為簡單的經濟利益問題,也不能再像盲人一樣跟從某個過時國際秩序中的“大國”。無論是在政治還是民間層面,澳大利亞都需要更進一步了解中國,換位思考,做中國的“好讀者”。(作者是澳大利亞國立大學學者)

原創欄目

版權作品,未經環球網Huanqiu.com書面授權,嚴禁轉載,違者將被追究法律責任。 責編:【澳】高林


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特恩布爾的一票否決:陸克文“不合適參選聯合國秘書長”背後的利益考量

近日,澳大利亞前總理、前工黨領袖陸克文參選聯合國秘書長的計劃遭到否決。此前有報道稱,由於內閣投票未能通過,決定權被交到了現任總理、自由黨領導人特恩布爾的手上,並最終被其否決。理由為“鑒於陸克文在任期間的領導權威性問題上,不符合聯合國秘書長一職的要求……因而本屆政府認為陸克文不合適參選“。

雖然老陸自身問題確實不少,但這在事實上並未妨礙其有機會參選聯合國秘書長一職,如若能幸運當選,這對於提升澳大利亞在國際社會的影響力,以及國家形象無疑是非常有益的。但特恩布爾的否決則讓陸克文連去競爭的機會都沒有了。因而,決定一出,便遭到了工黨一眾政客的抨擊。在他們看來特恩布爾為了自由黨的利益,選擇損公肥私,使得澳大利亞失去聯合國成立70年以來首次薦舉一名可敬的澳大利亞公民為候選人的機會。

可特恩布爾究竟是因為什麼利益而選擇“砌牆”阻擋老陸呢?

拋開特恩布爾給出的冠冕堂皇的借口,直接的原因其實很簡單:對於特恩布爾來說,若支持陸克文,他必定會失去黨內威信;而若不支持,則會被認為黨同伐異。後者很好理解,他此刻面臨的正是這樣的“控訴”,但前者該如何理解呢?

這就涉及到自由黨內部的“分化問題”了。雖然在上周四的內閣商討中,支持推薦一方的內閣議員與反對方的比例為11:10,換句話就是,特恩布爾黨內都有百分之五十以上的議員支持陸克文參選,但特恩布爾卻無法選擇順水推舟,依據“多數表決的基本民主原則”去同意老陸參選。因為自由黨內的極右派才是惹不起的主。

身為中立派政客的特恩布爾,一直以來並不受黨內極右派的待見。再加上本次大選中,自由黨在議會只獲得比工黨多一席這樣差強人意的結果,這就讓特恩布爾非常擔憂有朝一日會步陸克文、吉拉德及艾伯特的後塵,遭遇黨內投票替換的悲劇。殘酷的現實逼迫特恩布爾必須回應黨內極右派反對陸克文出選的聲音,只有這樣他才能夠安撫以公開批評聯合國而聞名的保守議員博納迪為代表的極右派,逐步強化自身在黨內的威信。

當然,這個選擇就意味着他將違背“多數表決的基本民主原則”和面臨“黨同伐異”的批評。可這對於特恩布爾來說,壓力遠不及惹怒極右派來得大。畢竟,以外長畢曉普為代表的中立派並非極端派,會理性、合理地對待任何結果,而畢曉普本人還是特恩布爾最親近的盟友,具有相對穩定的關係,不會貪小失大去策動黨內變革。至於工黨,反正基本上特恩布爾的多數決定都會遇到來自工黨的批評,倒也不差這一回了。

簡而言之,特恩布爾不顧國家榮譽,堅決否決陸克文參選聯合國秘書長,並非因為什麼“陸克文違背國家利益”,不過是自由黨內政治博弈的考量。但此舉也暗示了特恩布爾不僅僅在議會上面臨著僵局,在自由黨黨內也面臨著分裂局面,這個分裂甚至已經使得其不得不儘可能地服從極右派的意願。可在這種岌岌可危的政治現實下,特恩布爾在無底線的讓步中,真的能夠避免如陸克文、吉拉德和艾伯特那樣的鬧劇式的政治鬥爭嗎?

—— 高林,澳大利亞國立大學中國問題研究者

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版權作品,未經環球網Huanqiu.com書面授權,嚴禁轉載,違者將被追究法律責任。 責編:高林


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我們是否在經歷民主的衰敗?

脫歐、特朗普:民主的衰敗?

毛主席曾經說過:天下大亂,形勢大好。近期,英國出乎意料地選擇脫歐、自食其言的失敗企業家特朗普正式任命為共和黨的候選人、澳大利亞總理換來換去最終政壇淪為僵局等一系列不理性而混亂的事件,似乎演變成一場全球性的無序狀態。理論上,民主國家執行的政策是大眾以投票的形式表達的意願。但是,當大眾內心的憤怒導致他們做出不理性而對自己和國家都不利的選擇,民主便會導致國家陷入困境。身為澳大利亞公民的筆者以澳大利亞政壇為例在此拙作中簡單分析現代民主中的誤讀和缺陷。

愛國者抑或是自虐狂?

“脫歐”是英國右翼派自1973加入歐盟後的長年目標。原本被專家認為是千載難逢之蠢事2016年六月底竟然以微弱優勢,對反對派攻其不備獲勝。由於英國投票並非強制性,本次參與投票的公民人數接近總人口的72.2%,以51.9:48.1的比例通過了該公民公決政策。英鎊大跌、總理卡梅倫辭職、蘇格蘭宣布要”脫英加歐“、歐洲多名極右派政客掌聲雷動,意味着脫歐引起連鎖反應的可能較大。全世界拭目以待,期待本次咄咄怪事究竟引起什麼樣的結果,同時也束手無策,想不通這個結果到底對英國人有什麼好處。英國似乎陷入了黑白不分的動蕩局勢,在經濟、政治上達成了巨大的負面效果。耐人尋味的是,事後英媒體報道谷歌搜索引擎上最熱門的話題是“歐盟是什麼”。

英國二戰時期在任總理溫斯頓·丘吉爾說得好:和普通選民進行短暫五分鐘的交談,民主中存在的問題就不言而喻。

政客:民主的操縱者?

古希臘思想家普拉圖和蘇格拉底曾經在對話中談到政治體制的演變。普拉圖認為,專制統治大概是民主發展到一定程度的必然成果。民主最本質的理念是自由,而所謂的自由是指顛倒原有的阻攔和拘束,把權力從奪權群體的手上讓給公民。理論上,這種體制是相對公開的,也是相對公平的,以投票形式得到的結果大概是大眾意願的縮影。但是,民主並非完好無缺。當一個國家最高領導層面顛三倒四,且國家自由到一定的程度,這種體制會展示本質上的缺陷。

空口無憑,以實為證。在筆者本國澳大利亞,十年之內已經舉行過四次大選,而黨內免職總理已經是屢見不鮮的現象。澳大利亞聯邦議會(有稱國家級政府)分為150個議席(又稱選區),每三年舉行一次大選,而投票是強制性的。簡單說,選民投票時選的是本地席位的某一個黨代表。理論上,本地當選人將在國家議會上代表該地區公民的意願。黨內也以投票的形式選擇其領導人,而若該黨在大選中占多數這個代表會任命為總理。

這麼簡單的投票形式,這麼寶貴的權利,怎麼會被一個所謂的發達國家玩兒得這麼壞?筆者認為,當前民主投票的理念中存在嚴重的誤讀,而蠱惑民心的政客經常利用選民對國度體制的誤解,變本加厲。經常在媒體上看到的工黨和自由黨,也就是大眾口中的所謂“政府與反對黨”,這個說法和體制本身存在天淵之別。實際上,除了兩個大黨之外澳大利亞還有許多小黨、組織和個人議員。許多人仍然以為澳大利亞投票像美國一樣直選總理,把大選視為兩名大黨候選人之間的選擇。

在這麼一個制度之下,政客玩的是人氣大賽,而不是原則的爭辯。所謂的“反對派”,也就是在上一次大選中未獲勝的政黨,通常會搬弄是非,並不在意國家和公民的利益統統反對另一派的說法和政策。群起而攻之還不算,也要憑空捏造甚至用恐懼忽悠選民,並不會提供一個相對合理的方案讓選民想主動投他,而是通過不斷的攻擊與誹謗造成大眾對另一派的反感。政壇淪為一團亂麻後,投票已經不是執行政策的方式,選民無非是投個票毫不顧後果地發泄不滿。民眾的短視和政客的操縱,形成的是搖擺不定的狀態,最終害的是自己,對於國家長期發展是一個非常低效的狀態。

這種狀態的缺陷顯而易見,筆者在此舉例說明。澳大利亞建立高速鐵路是長年爭論不休的目標。最近在2013年,吉拉德政府曾經做過調查並且宣布,澳大利亞建立布里斯班、悉尼、堪培拉和墨爾本鐵路(共1750公里)預計費用為1140億澳元(約5680億人民幣),並且預期完成時間為2065年。相對而言,中國京滬高速鐵路(共1318公里)以2200億人民幣(約441億澳元)的預計費用在三年之內就完成並且對乘客開放。

脫完歐再脫離理性

脫歐成功的原理和澳洲政壇淪為一團亂麻本質上是一致的。為什麼要脫歐?脫歐對英國公民帶來了許多的不便,還給經濟帶來了巨大的打擊,而這種後果在投票前就擺在眼前。脫歐成功之所以是政客把難民問題和歐盟放到一塊,引起許多公民對此問題的擔憂,宣布脫歐成功後,有的人甚至不知道脫的是什麼東西。

在短暫的一年之內,特朗普從根本不可能參選的無恥之尤政客演變成共和黨的代表人。澳大利亞政壇再亂,大不了就不建高鐵罷了,而特朗普上台,這是讓人為世界膽顫心驚的歹事。基於恐懼感和仇恨,比如其對穆斯林、墨西哥移民的歧視和制裁措施,自食其言的特朗普以“美國復興”為號召似乎鼓動了大眾。鑒於特朗普的到目前為止的成就,他通過美國公民對伊拉克戰爭、難民危機、經濟危機和國內社會等問題的憤怒而崛起。

特朗普把大眾擔憂的問題簡單化了,以最直接的方式提供解決問題的方案。對於難民問題,他想改一面牆。對於恐怖主義的問題,他想把伊斯蘭國“炸出翔”,並且跟蹤定居美國的穆斯林。在就業的問題上,特朗普認為進口產品搶走了美國人的飯碗,想對國際貿易加以鞭策。在許多對現狀不滿的選民眼裡,特朗普是一個“接地氣”的政客,他的解決方案簡單明了,不像其它政客受政治準確的話語拘束。但是一旦當選,他的說法是否是可行的?特朗普貌似不明辨是非,並不在乎他言論中的真假、可能性和合理性。他作為一名極右分子他的極端言論似乎不受拘束,無論他口中說著多誇張的胡言亂語,特朗普作為一個反對當前的政治體制起到了非常有效的作用。正是因此,國際媒體上一針見血的批評對於特朗普的鐵杆粉絲簡直就是對牛彈琴。

無論是經濟還是社會上,困難時期是人最感性的時候,是最迷惘的時候,也是特朗普這種蠱惑民心的政客奪權的絕佳機會。脫歐已經明確地表明民主體制出了問題。當一個國家在投票的過程中被忽悠得都不知道自己投出了什麼名堂,這個國家的政治體制明顯存在嚴重的誤讀。民主最本質的宗旨是“為人民服務”,實現大眾的意願,但是當大眾不僅僅不了解投票的體制而投的根本就不是自己的意願,是否已經違反了民主的理想?特朗普若當選當然也受議會和憲法的拘束,但是對於西方民主國家這是一個十分危險的先例。讓我們拭目以待美國選民這場“全面娛樂”的結果吧。

【澳】高林,澳大利亞國立大學榮譽學士

網約車新政:破壞性的創新

網約車:破壞性的創新

據悉,交管部門去年底提出的《網絡預約出租汽車經營服務管理暫行辦法》(俗稱網約車新政)或將在七月初出台。問世不久的”網約車”不僅是家喻戶曉的流行網絡用語,亦是日常生活中必備的出行方案。方便便捷的”網約車”好處顯而易見,即融合了傳統交通與新時代的”互聯網+”科技為全國人民提供了新穎的出行方式,又有助於緩解原有的招手即停的出租車的不足之處。在短暫的四年之內,網約車已經搶盡風頭,成功改變了多名用戶的出行習慣,變成千家萬戶的首選”打車”方式。最為代表性的網約車平台“滴滴出行”稱其去年的訂單量足14.3億元人民幣,每日平均訂單量高達1400萬。如此之大的經濟轉變,在啟動出租車行業前所未有的人力和技術改進的同時,也帶來了難以對付的立法與管理問題。

成功在於破壞

網約車的成功可以理解為一種”破壞性創新”(又稱突破性、顛覆性創新),克雷頓·克里斯澄生在《創新的兩難》一文中曾闡述過。破壞性的創新最初是在簡單技術的基礎上推出價格低廉、質量略差、用戶量較少的產品,而這種產品最大的特點是其針對的消費群與現有的產品截然不同。它在初始階段所針對的市場大程度上面向的是所謂的“非消費”群體,也就是在現有的消費群之外。此類低價產品備受低消費群體(即原本的非消費群體)的喜歡,所以促成了在簡便技術基礎之上,快速改進和市場擴展的效果。

世界上最至明的網約車平台是2009年在美國成立的優步。在戰略方面,優步和滴滴出行在國內的手段大致相同。兩家網約車平台自身不經營出租車服務,而像淘寶一樣作為司機和客戶雙方的中介。為了擴展平台的規模,優步和滴滴都興師動眾的融資了大量的基金,為雙方提供補貼, 使得其平台在吸引客戶的同時也吸引了所謂的”專車”司機,並且擴展了服務規模,也動搖了招手即停出租車原有的壟斷地位。

專車抑或是黑車?

網約車平台的目的是打亂市場秩序,以互聯網+為基礎創建新穎的”共享經濟”。所謂的共享經濟,實際上是把傳統經濟里的壁壘倒塌的新型交易模式(沒寫完)。而這種交易,說白了就是私下的,不屬於任何受法制監管的。在出租車行業,這種離經叛道的行為早就已經相沿成習,稱之為黑車。黑車就是沒有載客資格的出租車,和滴滴專車實質上是沒有什麼區別的,而前者無可爭議的是違法的服務。從這個角度上講優步、滴滴、易到等網約車平台其實是黑車的預約服務,正規化了原本定為違法違規的私人載客服務。

平台也給消費者也提供了大量的保障和便利,在提高出行體驗質量的同時也通過技術和反饋減少了宰客的可能性。優步、嘀嘀出行等”網約車”平台都有嚴格的註冊授權過程,並且為消費者提供簡約的反饋功能。此外,”網約車”平台作為”一條龍”服務的應用程序,增加了消費者的意識並且也保護了消費者的權益。實時導航地圖,價格統一性和應用內網絡支付減少了”宰客”的可能性,並且增強了出行的效率和便利。”不打表”和”打車難”的交通高峰困難已經是世界各地屢見不鮮的情況,給日常出行帶來了負面影響,並且使得許多客戶質疑出租車司機的素質。

網約車是否安全?

優步等網約車平台在世界各地遭到了出租車司機的抗議,這也不足為奇。到此為止,這種抗議貌似對執法的影響並不大。有人要對優步下定義,明確定之為不合法,並且徹底取締網約車服務。最常見的理由是網約車不安全,不受官方的監管,因此無法保證乘客的安全和權益。中國國內近期也有報道多次發生的網約車事件,包括FIFA電競選手被滴滴司機砍斷手筋,深圳女教師被網約車司機殺害,和深圳醉酒女子凌晨叫車,遭滴滴司機猥褻、尾隨。在國外,此問題也是媒體關注的焦點。美國出租車司機聯盟發布過一項”你坐誰的車?”(http://www.whosdrivingyou.org)的網站,其主旨為收集美國地區的”網約車”事件,並且提倡抵制網約車。但是,該網站並沒有什麼可比性,只是單純地收集了網約車的反面新聞,也沒有證明出租車事件比較少。聯盟的代言人說明,”我們並沒有明確的數字,幾乎全是軼事”。

當然,任何平台都難免有個別案例,但是以”社會安全”為口號的網約車反對派,並沒有明確地證明出租車比網約車安全。與此相反,網約車平台主動對安全問題做了更進一步的措施。在深圳一名女教師不幸遭到殺害後,嘀嘀出行表示其將會利用技術增強安全措施,包括全天客服和一鍵報警、形成軌跡共享、道理偏離提醒、人臉識別等安全應急功能。同時,優步表示其在中國地區已開啟司機端的人像識別,以確保出行的安全。筆者認為在沒有可比依據的情況下,以安全為理由對網約車徹底取締的說法不足為訓。為了保證出行的安全,對網約車管制立法是迫在眉睫的任務。

是否合法?該如何對網約車立法?

可見,網約車的成功在大程度上印證了傳統出租車存在的問題,並且提供了解決問題的方案。世界各地爭論已久的難題是,網約車是否合法?在當前的法律上網約車和黑車不相上下,被不同地區定為違法載客服務,多次被當地警方打擊並罰款。近期,濟南市城市公共客運服務管理中心判斷滴滴專車司機為非法運營,扣車並且罰款15000元。去年,上海、北京、南京、青島等地區曾”叫停”嘀嘀、易到,把專車定為”黑車”。

與此同時,世界各地的政府在網約車立法的問題上糾纏不休。由於州政府的規定在不同地區執行不同程度上的監管,優步一直以來遊走在法律的邊緣上。作為世界上僅有對優步等”網約車”服務立法的城市,澳大利亞首都堪培拉在2015年10月底啟動了一項出租車行業改革政策。該政策是澳大利亞首都領地政府與優步長期商討的結果,在初步階段要求優步司機向官方申請載客執照,並且提供相應的保險,像定期的車檢、犯罪記錄背景調查等。《澳大利亞首領地出租車行業創新改革》文中說明,在出租車行業開放化的同時,出租車的註冊和培訓費用將會降低,而且出租車將享受特權,包括機場的出租車專區。後期,該政策將會統一化”網約車”平台和傳統出租汽車的監管體制,並且允許司機同時在不同的平台上接單。

堪培拉對”網約車”立法後,新南威爾士州政府隨後對出租車行業進行改革。澳洲其他地區依然取締優步等服務,稱之為非法運行載客服務。自2014年優步正式進入昆士蘭以來,州政府一直判斷其為非法的,並且對優步司機進行嚴厲的罰款。與此同時,優步總部鼓勵司機逃單,並且公布相關議員的信息,鼓勵用戶向政府抗議。昆州交通運輸部長說明,該州的交通體制正在複審中。他強調,創新並非犯法的借口。

英、美國等地區隨後按照本地的特殊條件也採取了不同的立法和管理方案。英國倫敦自60年代以來具有不同類型的出租車牌照,而網約車純屬合法的小型出租車,僅需司機申請網約車執照。同時,英國交管部門對此類型的載客服務有基本的安全要求,並且對其進行監管。在美國,不同地區依然執行不同程度上的禁止,有個別州政府已經對與載客相關的法律進行修改與更新,隨着網約車的普及化也對其手下留情。

新政出台前夕之際,國內網約車是否有錦繡前程?

不言自明,對網約車立法是必然的,一刀切不可,但又不得不干涉。網約車的用戶量日益增加,目前的地方化管制方法是不可維持的。本次《辦法》出台,廣泛共識的是希望更好地管理目前較混亂的出租車行業,並且對滴滴出行、易到用車、優步等創新的模式持有更加寬容的態度,使得傳統經濟適當的轉型為更加有效率的新穎出行模式。與此同時,法制機構對安全問題加以鞭策也勢所必然。有法可依,有章可循。在當前”游擊戰”般的狀態下,安全措施完全由平台自身具備,雖然平台努力為用戶提供反饋和安全的保障,這種看似脫離法制機構的私人經濟並非良好的現象和發展趨勢。同時,網約車平台的不合理及不可維持的商業手段或將被取締,提高行業內的公平性和對消費者有利的競爭。

應否干涉業內的問題,執行多大程度上的監管和限制,是C2C平台問世以來世界各地政府爭論不休的難題。淘寶、Airbnb、優步、嘀嘀打車、微商等以互聯網為基礎的平台啟動了一種私人化和兼職化的經濟趨向,稱之為”共享經濟”。共享經濟實質上的作用是在傳統經濟內的多餘資源的同時,啟動了前所未有的人力資源和交易便利,理論上不僅會提高經濟的靈活性和效率,也會便利消費者和商家雙方。從這方面講,這種平台是經濟自然演變中的良好轉型推動者,但在從利益和管理方面,平台統統會形成壟斷,並且從大量的交易中套利,掌控一定的權利。互聯網+的利弊互見,是在適當的監管制度之下,對消費者和商業是利大於弊的。本次《辦法》出台將會決定未來的發展方向,讓我們拭目以待。

【澳】高林,作者系澳大利亞國立大學榮譽學士

Designing Heritage

The designer of the four interconnected websites — China Heritage, China Heritage AnnualA New Sinology Reader and The Story of the Stone — reflects on his experience in creating these sites with the founders of The Wairarapa Academy, Geremie R. Barmé and John Minford, and the Stone scholar Annie Ren. — The Editor


Callum Smith

Designer, China Heritage

#bad_design { cursor: crosshair; }

According to Internet statistics analysts at MIT, by early 2016 there were over one billion unique websites on the Internet; Google and other search engines had indexed over one trillion webpages. The average Internet user visits fewer than one hundred websites a month. When visiting a site, a reader will generally skim under twenty percent of the site’s total content.

Although websites are an integral part of digital life, statistics show that most online content remains under-utilised or unexplored. Why is this?

There is no denying the fact that average users visit sites or use web apps for immediate and pragmatic reasons, or for instant gratification. Commercial sites and apps are created to provide ‘click bait’ and many achieve that aim seamlessly. But what of content-rich sites that languish in cyber purgatory: not entirely ignored nor ever fully utilised?

From my experience both as a web user (I’m twenty-three this year and started surfing the net at age five) and as a web designer (I created my first website at the age of ten), I would suggest that apart from simple utilitarian uses of the net, most websites even when they are designed for easy navigation and prolonged use (that is, to be ‘sticky’), reflect a disconnect between the aims of content providers and the designers they employ to help realise their online vision, or ‘web market model’. As a result, even professional or non-commercial sites are often ungainly and hard to navigate.

If websites are so important, why are often so poorly designed, or fail to optimise content? With one billion other websites to contend with, why should anybody read yours?

Don’ts and Does

Websites are easy to make. Packaged solutions like WordPress provide the means by which even the least tech-savvy user can build their own website. Not surprisingly, most of the resulting sites end up looking generic, regardless of the intended purpose; they readily become cluttered with irrelevant elements and feature widgets-for-widgets’ sake. Once up and running, they are often not maintained and become ill-kempt. Amateur sites like these may be used for simple data mining; they are rarely fully explored or ever returned to, floating adrift in the gyre of the Internet, lost in a virtual Sargasso Sea. Professionally designed websites, however, might be aesthetically appealing, but their designers often have no involvement, or particular interest in, the content they are working with. The results of such a mismatch are evident everywhere.

Poorly designed websites are not only frustrating, they are counter-productive. Thoughtfully designed sites can be rich and varied. Clumsy and thoughtless sites are differently bad in pretty much the same way. They employ mundane and confusing formats. They are stylistically inconsistent, difficult to navigate, function poorly on mobile devices, and are unintuitive; they make excessive use of elements that serve no apparent function. In some cases, designers believe unconventional approaches make their sites ‘novel’ or ‘innovative’. More often than not, they deter potential readers, degrade the quality of the content, and present content authors as careless. Bad websites often share the following ten features. They:

  • Use non-standard or inconsistent colour schemes, typefaces and sizing
  • Bloat the page with irrelevant content, are over-complicated
  • Make poor use of whitespace and space distribution
  • Use an inconsistent layout between pages
  • Have an arbitrary navigation style, and employ poorly designed site hierarchy
  • Are not purpose-built and are designed inappropriately for the content type and theme
  • Use an incoherent URL structure, unintuitive ‘breadcrumbs’ (a good breadcrumb, or URL design, would reflect the hierarchical position of the page, eg. chinaheritage.org/journal/essays/on-websites)
  • Are incompatible with modern browsers and different platforms (i.e., mobile devices, tablets, desktop computers)
  • Load slowly, require users to install plugins or load unnecessary resources (Flash movies, complex graphics)
  • Are not well documented, are programmatically poorly constructed, and inhibit the participation of, and transition to new website developers

Such flaws result in cumbersome and illogical site designs and are detrimental to user experience. To my mind, a website is ‘well designed’ if it works in a way that fulfils user anticipation, or exceeds it, and if it is aesthetically pleasing. Although seemingly obvious, the primary consideration for an successful design is to determine how content and form can be aligned. The content — whether that be of an e-newspaper, digital news site, blog, app, e-commerce site, etc. — and the ‘tradition’ that the website builds on will determine basic design principles and functionalities.

As with any other publication, the design should be familiar, both aesthetically and hierarchically. A non-fiction book, for example, is divided into chapters and sections in a way that allows each logical entity to be read as an individual piece, but also as a component that threads together ideas and themes in the overarching work. A magazine, journal or newspaper is similarly divided into thematic sections, pages and columns, within which content is organised according to its relevance and relationship to other content.

Websites as Metaphor

At the same time, the website design should aim to incorporate new technologies and interactivity into the tradition that it inherits. Apple, for example, is a long-standing proponent of skeuomorphic design — that is, digital mimicry of familiar physical objects — in its software. In its design guidelines, Apple suggests:

When virtual objects and actions in an app are metaphors for familiar experiences — whether these experiences are rooted in the real world or the digital world — users quickly grasp how to use the app…. It’s best when an app uses a metaphor to suggest a usage or experience without letting the metaphor enforce the limitations of the object or action on which it’s based.

In making four interconnected websites — China HeritageChina Heritage Annual, A New Sinology Reader and The Story of the Stone — our aim was to develop a design that was both distinctive yet familiar; aesthetically pleasing and intuitive. We wanted the site to reflect a traditional reading experience, while introducing new levels of interactivity, inter-textuality and multi-layered design that digital media make possible. The ‘Heritage web stable’ builds on a history both of print and of online journal-style publications that goes back to 1995 (see below), and it has been designed with this tradition, theme and purpose in mind.

Structurally, the site has been organised in layers according to the regularity of content updates. The first stage of the drafting process was to determine what sections the site would comprise of, how those sections inter-relate, and their relative prominence. The wording and translations for each of these sections was carefully considered. Each ‘top level’ section uses either a single English word or two Chinese characters — the optimal length for screen sizes ranging from large desktops to smartphones. Although inevitably different from the final version, the initial draft provided the foundation on which the structure of the website was designed.

IMG_3984

The initial draft

Based on this draft written plan, sketched out crudely on paper, a rough design for the website was put together in PDF format, one that took design cues from traditional print media. The layout was designed with general English-language print format and reading habits in mind — that is, from left-to-right and top-to bottom. The header — the most dominant component of every section of the site — establishes the ‘brand’ of the website, and sets the theme for the page being viewed. We selected the grass-script form of the character 遺  ‘heritage’ in the hand of Li Huailin 李懷琳 of the Tang dynasty as a motif for the Heritage ‘brand’, and photographic artwork by Lois Conner as the prominent banner. In Chinese, these two components are known as the ‘head’ 報頭 (‘flag’, or ‘nameplate’ in English) and ‘eyes’ 報眼 (or ‘ears’ in English) of the newspaper. The header provides the thematic basis for the minimalistic and tradition-inspired design. Variations made to the header are used to differentiate major sections of the site. The serif typefaces — Trajan for titles, Caslon for content and Huawen kaiti 華文楷體 for Chinese — and black-and-white primary colour schemes have been used as part of the overall tradition-inspired style.

#FFFFFF Paper Thinking

Early layout draft

Early layout draft

Using this basic structure and thematic motif, the first section to be drafted was the front page. The front page (or ‘home page’) of a website was once considered to be the most visited, and therefore the most important page. This is no longer the case. Search engines now index every section of a website guiding users to specific content; most users who visit the front page do so with the intention of quickly navigating to a more relevant part of the site. Poorly designed sites wastefully populate the front page with a slab of text ‘about this site’ or ‘how to use this website’. Instead, we conceptualised the front page of the main China Heritage site as serving a similar function to the front page of a newspaper. It should provide, at a glance, seamless navigation to other sections of the website, but also draw the reader’s attention to new content. To resolve this, we designed a prominent ‘top level’ navigation menu — ‘About’, ‘Projects’, ‘Journal’ and ‘Archive’ — for quick access to major sections of the website. These are further divided into sub-sections in drop-down menus. On the left side of each page, a contextual menu provides navigation between pages within the same section. In the main content area, excerpts from the four most recent journal articles are displayed. This introduces first-time users to the website and its content, as well as providing return readers with an overview of what has been added since their last visit. This basic layout is universal throughout the site.

Elements are sized and positioned according to their relative importance, prominence and recurrence. Each element of the design has been chosen to serve an obvious, familiar and unique purpose. Each page is divided into separate logical entities by means of white space. Many webpages divide individual elements — such as lists, or paragraphs — by using excessive amounts of blank space and make inconsistent or confusing use of division indicators, such as headings. This clutters the page unnecessarily, and makes content difficult to read. In order to determine the optimal amount of spacing between elements, and the precise positioning of those elements to form natural ‘lines’ on the screen, ‘mock’ designs were revised many times before any code was written and a ‘live’ site posted.

China Heritage was designed to look and function the same, regardless of the device used to view it: whether that be on a desktop, a touchscreen tablet or mobile phone. A similar, but distinct, conceptual design was drafted for various screen sizes and platforms. Elements are automatically rearranged and re-calibrated according to screen size. On desktops, menus respond to mouse events — such as clicks and hovers — while touch-screen devices, such as an iPhone or iPad, respond to a sequence of taps, in order to best adhere to the expected mode of interaction on each platform.

An early Photoshop draft (left), and the current live site (right)

An early Photoshop draft (left), and the current live site (right)

Sub-sites — that is, major sections of the site that warrant an independent navigational logic — are designed according to this basic layout, using contextual menus for deeper navigation within the sub-site. These sub-sites are distinguished by subtle variations on the standard page elements — such as the colour-scheme and the banner image.

Annual 2016 draft site

Annual 2016 draft site

Even within the deep layers of a ‘sub-site’ — for example, in an issue of the China Heritage Annual, or one of The Academician’s personal archives — the reader should be able to navigate seamlessly back to the main Heritage site. Although each of these sub-sites could be designed as an independent entity, this hierarchical design allows for a level of integration and unity that would not be possible if each sub-site were designed separately.

Superficial Depths

As new technologies become available and site content evolves websites are invariably revised and redesigned. Over the initial design period (March-July 2016), layout of China Heritage was repeatedly tested, reviewed and revised as content was added. Shortcomings become evident as elements fell into place and began to feel ‘right’. This process of revision and improvement will continue for as long as China Heritage exists. This is why the site is designed to be modular — that is, content and design are distinct and independent. This allows for the seamless integration of future changes to the layout, style and functionality of the site. The design, scripts and other server-side code unique to the site are internally documented, to allow anyone with a basic understanding of website development languages to participation in the further design and development of the site.

An excerpt of the CSS

An excerpt of the CSS

Designed under the guidance of Geremie R. Barmé (a writer who has worked on various websites since co-building with his colleagues at the Long Bow Group in Boston The Gate of Heavenly Peace site to accompany the film of the same name in 1995), China Heritage is the product of a minimalist, purpose-built approach to intuitive website design. Other content types would require design principles different from those described here. Irrespective of genre, one basic rule of web design applies: the function of any element should never be confusing, or unexpected. The design should encourage reading, not deter it. Webpages are more likely to be read when their purpose is obvious, content is relevant, and they are easy to navigate and use. Impatience and skim reading are habits that need to be understood and accommodated, in particular as they are likely to become even more prevalent among web users and with the gradual transition towards primarily smartphone and tablet based web-browsing.

Technologies change with time, as do user habits and expectations. China Heritage was designed, coded and written primarily on an iPad Pro — unimaginable when the first generation of that device was launched in 2010 — even today a cause for ridicule among path-dependent, conservative programmers and designers. Websites that are designed to attract users and readers and that aim to remain relevant should anticipate, accommodate and embrace the kinds of changes to habits and technologies described in the above. At the same time, they will also inevitably evolve as new content and reader/user responses clarify their purpose, and their possibilities.


Originally published in the China Heritage Journal: http://chinaheritage.net/journal/designing-heritage/

Shanzhai 山寨 China and its Contents

In the welter of discussions in Australia about ‘innovation’, ‘agility’ and being ‘nimble’ in the marketplace, it is timely for us to consider China’s own inventive shanzhai culture and its consumers. In fact, it is especially fitting to reflect on shanzhai as a form of disruptive innovation this year, which marks half a century since the onslaught of the Cultural Revolution in 1966.

Callum Smith, who is twenty-three this year, is a former IT programmer, a translator and a China scholar. In 2015, he completed an Honours thesis, ‘China’s Shanzhai Entrepreneurs: Hooligans or Heroes?’, at The Australian National University. — The Editors

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Pi County 郫縣 in Sichuan province, famous for its ‘spicy fermented sauce’ 豆瓣醬, is also home to Comrade X, one of China’s 273 million migrant workers.[1] He moved to Shenzhen on the Guangdong border with Hong Kong to take advantage of the country’s economic boom and to support his family in Sichuan. He earns an average monthly migrant 農民工 wage of RMB 2864 (AUD$620). During his lunch break, you won’t find Comrade X at such popular yuppie hangouts as Starbucks 星巴克 sipping RMB 36 (AUD$7.50) lattes, although back in Pi County over the Spring Festival you might have run into him at Starfucks 墨巴克, a local coffee outlet with an arresting name inspired by the American franchise.

The Starfuck Cafe, Pi County, Sichuan province. Photograph: The Epoch Times

Starfucks Cafe, Pi County, Sichuan province. Photograph: The Epoch Times

As he drinks Sino-coffee for around RMB 10 (AUD$2) Comrade X might well be wearing the latest ‘ZARE’ couture while watching the TV news streaming on his HiPhone.[2] Back in Guangdong, his girlfriend — a sales consultant at a small stall in one of Shenzhen’s many wholesale electronics markets — sports a ‘high-end replica’ 高仿 Louis Vuitton bag and makes a living selling ‘domestically produced’ 國產 and ‘smuggled’ 水貨 smartphones. The imitation products that festoon the couple’s lives are part of ‘shanzhai 山寨 China’.

Shanzhai, the word means roughly ‘mass-produced imitation goods’, has created a Chinese landscape that is littered with products derided by the media, Chinese and international, as ‘copycat’, ‘guerrilla counterfeits’ and ‘knockoffs’, all the work of thieves.[3] Those who feel that their intellectual property and copyright has been infringed by shanzhai producers describe the products as ‘rubbish’, ‘piracy in disguise’ and ‘hooligan’.[4] Regardless of such righteous outrage, shanzhai — the producers, the products and the mentality — continues to flourish as an essential, quasi-legitimate shadow dimension of the Chinese economy. And, in practical terms, shanzhai products give disenfranchised ‘non-consumers’ of the orthodox economy — that is, people who would like to own but can’t afford the ‘original’ products — cut-price access to high-end technologies, as well as offering aspirational shoppers consumer satisfaction. For the ruling Chinese party-state, tolerance of the legally ambiguous phenomenon of shanzhai might also contribute to social stability.

Shanzhai Takes the Stage

The shanzhai-ification of China was officially recognised on 2 December 2008 when China Central Network Television (CCTV) Network News reported on shanzhai culture, the first mainstream media acknowledgement of the phenomenon.[5] Long before the CCTV report, however, the market for shanzhai telephones had been flourishing. In 2007 alone, a full year before that initial news report, an estimated 150 million shanzhai handsets were on the market.[6] They generated a total annual revenue for producers of USD$40 billion and sustained approximately 200,000 jobs.[7]

Shanzhai 山寨 literally means ‘mountain stronghold’. The term crops up in late-dynastic fiction but the more immediate use of the word is the Cantonese saanjaaih 山寨 (shanzhai in standard Chinese), a term connoting black-market business practices. Jaaih 寨, the second part of saanjaaih, literally means ‘stockade’. It was used in Hong Kong from the 1940s to refer to unlicensed and unregulated brothels, as in the term geihjaaih 妓寨, literally ‘prostitute holdout or stockade’.[8] The saanjaaih chong 山寨廠 that operated in remote areas of the British colony in the 1950 and 1960s became known for producing inferior-quality ‘homebrew’ or ‘homemade’ products. The covert nature of their operations, and their distance from the long arm of the law, allowed them to avoid prosecution by the authorities although they were involved in shady and often illegal business practices.[9] In the Noughties, the cheap, feature-rich imitation mobile phones first produced in the shadowlands of Shenzhen — typically labelled with subtle variations on brand names, such as ‘NOKLA’ instead of ‘Nokia’ and ‘Samsang’ instead of Samsung[10] — were originally called ‘black phones’ 黑手機. Drawing inspiration from the nearby territory of Hong Kong, producers and consumers were soon calling them ‘shanzhai handsets’, or shanzhaiji 山寨機. (The expression shanzhaiji is an abbreviation of shanzhai yidong dianhua shouji 山寨移動電話手機.)[11]

I Heart Shanzhaiji

I Heart Shanzhaiji

Despite widespread criticism, the existence of patent laws and constant assurances from officialdom that China is cracking down on IP infringement, the shanzhai economy has lost none of its vigour or appeal.[12] In 2015, estimates placed the number of shanzhai telephone handsets made in that year at 300 million.[13] Given the fact that when it so chooses the Communist Party can act with relentless efficiency in dealing with issues that it regards as a real threat,[14] it seems likely that the ‘hooligans’ behind shanzhai handset production could be brought to heel if the authorities were earnest about enforcement. Indeed, as one Shenzhen-based entrepreneur suggested to me in an interview in July 2015:

Shanzhai enterprises operate on the fringes of the law. Why doesn’t the government crackdown on shanzhai? …

Xi Jinping’s government values social harmony above all else 以和為貴. Similarly, his predecessor Hu Jintiao’s government promoted a ‘Harmonious Society’ 和諧社會. In order to maintain harmony above all else, unless a legitimate threat to public security is detected, the Chinese government will turn a blind eye to many otherwise legally ambiguous phenomena.[15]

All-Consuming Disruptive Innovation

Prior to the 2003 emergence of ‘black phones’, even basic (that is, not ‘smart’) mobile phones, which were priced between RMB 6400 to 8000, were considered a luxury item by migrant workers, and even most Chinese consumers. With the appearance of cheap ‘shanzhai handset’ mobile phones which cost a few hundred yuan, the number of mobile phone subscriptions in China grew from 270 million in 2003 to 1.2 billion in 2013.[16]

Mobile Phone Subscription Growth, 1989-2013. From The Economist

Mobile Phone Subscription Growth, 1989-2013. From The Economist

The concept of ‘disruptive innovation’ was described as early as 1997 by the Harvard academic cum-business guru (and fervent Mormon) Clayton Christensen in his bestseller The Innovator’s Dilemma. In that much-hyped book Christensen promoted the idea that for successful companies to stay successful they had to prepare for future consumer trends and technological change by appreciating the importance of what he dubbed ‘disruptive innovation’, or by pre-empting unexpected change through the far-sighted creation of new markets.  I would suggest, that Chinese-style disruptive innovation actually unsettles existing markets via the creative adaptation of existing technologies which then generates new markets, embracing consumers like Comrade X who featured in the opening vignette of this essay. Indeed,

The innovation transforms something that used to be so costly, only the very rich had access to it. These innovations make it so affordable and simple that normal people can do what only the rich and very skilled could do before.[17]

So-called ‘disruptive firms’ do not solely compete in existing markets. They instead seek to generate growth by meeting the needs of ‘non-consumers’ — that is, those unable to the afford the offerings of incumbent firms. For China’s ‘disruptive non-consumers’, shanzhai products offer affordable alternatives that are both functional and fashionable. Shanzhai products potentially mitigate the impacts of income inequality by providing lower-income earners with access to a shadow market of goods that resemble desirable products otherwise beyond their reach. As a certain Old Cai — a typical ‘non-consumer’ — put it in a 2010 interview, the materialistic yearnings of lower-income earners is partially fulfilled by the shanzhai economy:

We don’t just buy shanzhai phones. We also buy shanzhai clothes, shanzhai watches, shanzhai cooking utensils, shanzhai belts — anything that’s an imitation of a brand-name product. We like to buy all sorts of shanzhai stuff. It’s not that we don’t know that they’re low-quality imitations. We simply can’t afford the real deal. But we’re vain too. So we buy shanzhai copies — you know, for show.[18]

A Moderately Prosperous Shanzhai Society

Although many shanzhai products violate Chinese copyright laws, the government’s tolerance of them may, in part, be attributed to the Party’s continuing aims of maintaining social unity and stability. More recently, the Party has aimed to ‘Construct an Harmonious Society’ 構建和諧社會, first propounded under Hu Jintao in 2004.[19] This now complements the Party’s ‘first centenary goal’ (1921-2020) of making China a ‘Moderately Prosperous Society’ 小康社會 by 2020, one hundred years since the founding of the Communist Party.[20] In light of these policy settings, the Party may well covertly tolerate shanzhai consumption because it serves its interests. According to Duan Liyue 段禮樂, a legal scholar at Shenzhen University, the logic of aspirational consumption that lurks behind the purchase of shanzhai products, and the sheer size of the ‘non-consumer’ demographic that buys them, has quietly led to a government decision not to enforce intellectual property laws too rigorously:

There is a widely held view that China’s poor implementation of intellectual property protection is the cause of the rampant shanzhai phenomenon… . As a matter of fact, it was not ineffective enforcement of intellectual property laws that caused the shanzhai phenomenon to emerge. It was, to the contrary, the logic of consumption behind the purchase of shanzhai products that led to the non-enforcement of intellectual property laws.[21]

Although shanzhai products theoretically lessen the social impact of income inequality, ironically, the consumption of second-rate ‘knock-offs’ reinforces the social divide between those who can and those who cannot afford the originals. Indeed, the rise of shanzhai products has hardly dampened the Chinese consumer’s desire for authentic expensive products. In a 2011 survey conducted by the China Market Research Group, for example, luxury goods were deemed the third most desirable possession among Chinese consumers under the age of twenty-six (after a house and a car).[22]

In 2012, Chinese consumer obsession with luxury mobile phones and the sometimes extreme measures that they pursued to procure them became the subject of an infamous Internet meme: ‘Sell a kidney to buy an iPhone’ 賣腎買蘋果. This phrase originated with a media report about a seventeen-year-old boy who had sold one of his kidneys for 20,000 RMB so he could buy the latest iPhone and an iPad.[23] Although there are no official statistics on the trade in kidneys, surveys suggest that many members of China’s aspiring middle class live frugally so they can occasionally splurge on luxury goods.[24] It’s a phenomenon first described by Thorstein Veblen in his 1899 classic The Theory of the Leisure Class in which he notes that:

…[P]eople will undergo a very considerable degree of privation in the comforts or necessaries of life in order to afford what is considered a decent amount of wasteful consumption; so that it is by no means an uncommon occurrence, in an inclement climate, for people to go ill clad in order to appear well dressed.[25]

Starfucking China

Although acquiring a shanzhai copy may offer a similar experience to that of someone who can afford to buy the original product, the juxtaposition of the ‘fake’ to the authentic original reinforces perceptions of class distinctions and social inferiority. The consumption of shanzhai imitations thus serves to reinforce the status hierarchies implied by the ownership of the authentic product.[26] Consumption of shanzhai imitations reaffirms the buyer’s social status as a ‘non-consumer’ of authentic products, and it can make the original product even more desirable by comparison. Such overt social contradictions are noted by the novelist Yu Hua 余華 in his 2011 China in Ten Words:

When health is impaired, inflammation ensues, and the copycat [shanzhai] trend is a sign of something awry in China’s social tissue. Inflammation fights infection, but it may also lead to swelling, pustules, ulcers, and rot.[27]

But is anything really awry? Or is China merely on a trajectory to the ‘new normal’ 新常態 of consumer-driven economic development?

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Notes

Author’s Note: This essay draws on my Honours thesis, ‘China’s Shanzhai Entrepreneurs: Hooligans or Heroes?’, completed under the supervision of Geremie R Barmé at the College of Asia & the Pacific, The Australian National University, 2015. My thanks to Professor Barmé for the further editorial suggestions he made when reviewing this piece.

[1] ‘Bureau of Statistics Publishes the 2014 Report from the Survey of Migrant Workers’ 統計局發布2014年全國農民工監測調查報告, the online portal for the Central Government of The People’s Republic of China 中央政府門戶網站, 29 April 2015, online at: http://www.gov.cn/xinwen/2015-04/29/content_2854930.htm.

[2] ‘Starfucks, Yongdou Hejiang … Sichuan’s Shanzhai Alley is Really Something’ 墨巴克、永豆和漿 … 四川山寨一條街超雷人, The Epoch Times, 11 July 2014, online at: http://www.ettoday.net/news/20140711/377456.htm; and, ‘A Shanzhai Alley of Brand Name Products Appears on Xihuxi Road in Wuxi — With Truly Shocking Shopfronts and Signs’ 品牌山寨街現身錫滬西路 店鋪招牌雷翻眾人, Sina, 7 January 2014, online at: http://wx.sina.com.cn/news/wxnews/2014-01-07/085234550.html; and, ‘The Best of the Shanzhai Mobiles: Hiphone vs iPhone’ 最強山寨手機Hiphone挑戰iPhone, NetEase, online at: http://mobile.163.com/special/001127IL/hiphone.html.

[3] Lessley Anderson, ‘3 Lessons Apple’s Jony Ive Learned from Steve Jobs’, Vanity Fair, 10 October 2014, online at: http://www.vanityfair.com/news/tech/2014/10/jony-ive-lessons-from-steve-jobs. See also Yu Hua, China in Ten Words, Alan H Barr trans, New York: Pantheon Books, 2011, p.261; Winnie Won Yin Wong, Van Gogh on Demand, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2014, p.142; and, David Barboza, ‘In China, Knockoff Cellphones are a Hit’, The New York Times, 27 April 2009, online at: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/04/28/technology/28cell.html?_r=0.

[4] Pei Yu 裴鈺, ‘Shanzhai Breaks Laws, and Shanzhai Culture is a Rubbish Culture’ 山寨觸犯法律 山寨文化是一個垃圾文化, Tencent News, 7 March 2009, online at: http://news.qq.com/a/20090307/001066.htm; ‘The Celebrity Committee Member Ni Ping Calls for an End to Public Discourse on Shanzhai’ 明星委員倪萍提案封殺“山寨” 輿論嘩然一片, Pipi Entertainment News 皮皮娛樂, 3 March 2009, online at: http://ent.pipi.cn/info/7/7913.html; and, Zhu Dake 朱大可, ‘Shanzhai Culture is a Deconstructive Social Movement’ 山寨文化是一場社會解構運動, Sina, 15 January 2009, online at: http://news.sina.com/ch/phoenixtv/102-101-101-110/2009-01-15/16413565607.html.

[5] ‘Shanzhai Mobile Handsets Snatch the Low-end of the Market, Experts Call it Infringement’ 山寨手機搶低端市場 專家稱侵權, Sohu 搜狐, 2 December 2008, online at: http://tv.sohu.com/20081202/n260982719.shtml.

[6] The 150 million shanzhai handsets represented nearly a quarter of a total 750 million handsets produced in China that year. See ‘China’s “Bandit Phones” Making Big Scores’, CNN, 3 September 2009, online at: http://edition.cnn.com/2009/TECH/07/29/china.fake.phones/.

[7] Chao‐Ching Wei et al, ‘Exploring the Industry Follower’s Entry Strategies from China’s Bandit Business Model’, Chinese Management Studies, vol.7, no.3 (2013): 369.

[8] Chen Xiaolang 陳小朗, ‘Shanzhai — Slang from the Red Light District’ 山寨 — 源於花街柳巷的俚語, Yangcheng Evening News 羊城晚報, 25 June 2009, online at: http://www.ycwb.com/ePaper/ycwb/html/2009-06/25/content_528326.htm; and, Gao Tianqiang 高添強 and Li Jian 李建, Colourful Hong Kong 1940s-1960s 彩色香港 1940s﹣1960s, Hong Kong: Joint Publishing HK 三聯書店 (香港) 有限公司, 2013, p.8. The billionaire Li Ka-shing 李嘉誠 is said to have operated saanjaaih chong throughout the 1950s. See http://www.91jucai.com/finance/chanye/2015-06-26/32518_2.html.

[9] Chen Xiaolang, ‘Shanzhai — Slang from the Red Light District’.

[10] Peng Sizhou et al 彭思舟等, The Economic Revolution of Shanzhai 山寨經濟大革命:模仿為創新之母, Taiwan: Showwe Information Co. 秀威資訊, 2009, p.31.

[11] Other terms for mobile phones in Chinese include: 移動電話; 行動電話; and, 手提式電話.

[12] William P Alford, To Steal a Book Is an Elegant Offense: Intellectual Property Law in Chinese Civilization, Redwood, CA: Stanford University Press, 1995, p.69; and, Andrew Mertha, The Politics of Piracy: Intellectual Property in Contemporary China, Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2005, p.77.

[13] Wade Shepard, ‘China’s Copycat Manufacturers are now Pushing the Boundaries of Innovation’, South China Morning Post, 20 May 2015, online at: http://www.scmp.com/native/business/topics/invest-china/article/1802238/chinas-copycat-manufacturers-are-now-pushing.

[14] See, for example, the media blackout imposed by the authorities following the Tianjin Haibin Explosion in August 2015. ‘Chinese censors have blocked 50 websites for “spreading rumors” about the Tianjin explosions’, Quartz, 17 August 2015, online at: http://qz.com/481679/chinese-censors-have-blocked-50-websites-for-spreading-rumors-about-the-tianjin-explosions/.

[15] Interview conducted by the author for ‘China’s Shanzhai Entrepreneurs: Hooligans or Heroes?’, 17 July 2015, Shenzhen.

[16] John Villasenor, ‘China’s Wireless Industry in Ten Graphs’, Forbes, 20 June 2014, online at: http://www.forbes.com/sites/johnvillasenor/2014/06/20/chinaswirelessindustryintengraphs; and, ‘All the Phones in China’, The Economist, 1 March 2012, online at: http://www.economist.com/blogs/graphicdetail/2012/03/daily-chart.

[17] Craig Lambert, ‘Disruptive Genius’, Harvard Magazine (July-August 2014), online at: http://harvardmagazine.com/2014/07/disruptive-genius.

[18] ‘Why do Migrant Workers Like Shanzhai Phones?’ 山寨手機為何受農民工兄弟青睞?, Maixun Mobile (Sina Blog) 邁訊網手機, 23 July 2010, online at: http://blog.ifeng.com/article/6522989.html.

[19] ‘Building a Socialist Harmonious Society’ 構建社會主義和諧社會, online at: http://dangshi.people.com.cn/GB/221024/221027/14907139.html.

[20] ‘Comrade Jiang Zemin Proposes the Comprehensive Construction of a Moderately Prosperous Society’ 江澤民同志提出全面建設小康社會, online at: http://theory.people.com.cn/n/2012/1024/c350701-19376357.html.

[21] Duan Liyue 段禮樂, ‘Shanzhai and Chinese Consumerism’ 中國的消費主義與“山寨”, Guangming Daily 光明網, 7 November 2009, online at: http://www.gmw.cn/02blqs/2009-11/07/content_1054743.htm.

[22] Shaun Rein, The End of Copycat China, New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons, 2014, p.145.

[23] ‘A high school student sells his kidney for RMB 20,000 to buy an iPhone, parents report to the authorities’ 高中生為買蘋果手機賣腎只得2萬 家人報警, Sina, 9 August 2012, online at: http://news.sina.com.cn/s/2012-08-09/091824936505.shtml. The phenomenon continued in 2015: following the launch of the iPhone 6S in September that year, a popular WeChat joke featured the posting pictures of the iPhone tagged at the location of a kidney transplant hospital with captions urging viewers not to be ‘so vain’ (as to sell a kidney for a phone). See ‘Young Man Actually Sells Kidney to Buy iPhone 6S’ 男子為買iPhone 6s手機: 真的去賣腎了, NetEase 網易科技, 15 September 2015, online at: http://tech.163.com/15/0915/08/B3HRON4J000915BF.html.

[24] Shaun Rein, ‘For Louis Vuitton Being Too Popular in China Is Not Good’, CNBC, 15 November 2011, online at: http://www.cnbc.com/id/45282770; and, Megan Willett, ‘Louis Vuitton is Now a ‘Brand for Secretaries’ in China’, Yahoo Finance, 27 February 2015, online at: http://finance.yahoo.com/news/louis-vuitton-now-brand-secretaries-213713336.html.

[25] Thorstein Veblen, The Theory of the Leisure Class, Mineola, NY: Dover Publications, 1994, p.103.

[26] Barton Beebe, ‘Shanzhai, Sumptuary Law, and Intellectual Property Law in Contemporary China’, UC Davis Law Review, vol.47 (2013): 863-864.

[27] Yu Hua, China in Ten Words, p.276.


Originally published in The China Story Journal: https://www.thechinastory.org/2016/02/shanzhai-山寨-china-its-contents/

【澳】高林:山寨中國及其詳要

在澳洲,有關面對市場如何“創新”、“與時俱進”、“靈活應對”的話題正如火如荼地討論下,我們是否應該看看具有中國特色的山寨文化和它的消費群體們。事實上,自1966年文化大革命巨大衝擊以來的半個世紀,對山寨這一顛覆性的創新行為的反思在今年顯得意義尤為深刻。

高林,23歲,前IT程序員、中英譯者、中國研究員,2015年完成其澳洲國立大學榮譽碩士論文《中國山寨企業家:流氓抑或是英雄?》—— 編者著

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四川郫縣,素來以其郫縣豆瓣聞名,這也是中國2億7千3百萬外出務工人員中小X的家鄉。他前往廣州深圳打工以換取更高的收入來支持他遠在四川的家庭,深圳受益於毗鄰的香港經濟特區,經濟發展迅速。他每月收入2864元,這也是當地農民工工資月均收入。在午休時間,你不會在星巴克咖啡廳這樣的雅皮士(高收入青年)聚集地發現小X在那裡小酌一杯售價36元的拿鐵咖啡,但你也許能在春節期間郫縣“墨巴克”這樣的山寨美國品牌的咖啡廳里遇見他。

當小X正在享用他用10元買來的中國式咖啡時,你會發現他正穿着最新一季的“ZARE” 新裝,用他的Hiphone手機看着新聞視頻。而他遠在的廣東的女友炫耀般地提着她的高端仿製LV手提包,她是深圳電子產品批發市場中一小攤位上的銷售員,依靠銷售國產手機和“水貨”智能手機為生。這些仿冒產品不斷地圍繞着二人的生活,這也是中國山寨的縮影。

山寨一詞,是指粗糙的仿製產品,這些雜亂的產品在國內和國外媒體的嘲弄下,被形容為“抄襲”、“山寨”、“冒牌貨”等小偷行為,形成了一種特殊的中國印象。那些認為自己的知識產權和版權受到山寨產品所侵害的人們形容其為“垃圾”、“剽竊”、“流氓”行為。不顧這些爭議的憤怒之聲,在中國經濟法律的灰色地帶,廠商、產品以及知識產權的山寨行為依然十分猖獗。在市場中,山寨產品也為那些被正統市場“剝奪權利”的非消費者提供了一個滿足需求的新途徑,那些想要擁有正版商品卻不能承擔其高昂費用的人們,現在可以以低廉的價格享受高端的科技產品,同時也從精神上滿足了他們的消費需求。而對於中共而言,在山寨問題上模糊不清的法律縱容也有助於社會的穩定。

山寨佔領舞台

2008年12月2日,因中國中央電視台網絡新聞頻道對山寨文化進行了報道,中國的“山寨化”也被官方所承認,這也是首次主流媒體公開承認這一現象。早在中央電視台報道之前,山寨手機市場就已經十分興盛了,在首次報道的前一年,2007年整個年度,預計有1億5千萬部山寨手機在市場上銷售。這總共為生產商創造了400億美元的收益,並提供了約20萬個崗位。

山寨顧名思義,原意為“山中城寨”。該詞出現於中國古代小說中,但很快本被引用到了廣東話中,讀為 saanjaaih(山寨),隱喻黑市交易。jaaih(寨),用來形容柵欄包圍之地。在20世紀40年代的香港,寨被用來形容無執照和未經許可的性服務場所,俗稱妓寨,及“性工作者之柵欄”。而山寨廠(saanjaaih chong)這是指那些在20世紀50到60年代英國殖民期間,在香港遠郊生產劣質產品的家庭作坊式工廠。他們秘密性質的運作,並地處法律難以觸及到的偏遠地區,儘管他們經常參與黑市交易、非法買賣,但他們卻躲避了政府機關的審查。在世紀之交之時,深圳這一繁華之地第一次出現了價格低廉,外形奢華的仿製手機,典型地對市面上的品牌手機名稱加以巧妙的複製,例如“HOKLA”之於“Nokia”以及“Samsung”之於“Samsang”。起初,它們被稱為黑手機,後來受到香港“山寨”這一詞彙的啟發,很快人們把它們稱作“山寨手機”或“山寨機”(山寨移動電話手機的簡稱)。

儘管指責聲一片,現有的專利法及官員們一再不變地保證將堅決打擊知識產權侵權行為,而山寨經濟卻並沒有失去它的活力和需求。2015年間,估計山寨手機的製造數量達到3億部。介於共產黨在面對真正威脅時所能夠採取的強大執行力來看,如果有關部門對這個問題嚴肅對待,那麼這些躲在山寨手機產品背後的“流氓”將無處就範。的確,一名深圳當地的企業家在2015年7月接受筆者採訪時表示:

山寨企業運營在法律的邊緣。為什麼政府沒有對山寨採取打壓措施呢?…
習近平政府把以和為貴作為社會和諧的戰略目標。同樣的,他的前任胡錦濤政府也在不予餘力地構建“社會主義小康社會”。為了達成這一戰略任務,除非出現了威脅社會安定團結的不法行為,否則政府將對一些模稜兩可的現象睜一隻眼閉一隻眼。

徹底的破壞性創新

在03年“黑手機”展露苗頭之前,即使被標以6400元到8000元的高價非智能手機,對於大多普通消費者也算是奢侈品,更別提外出務工的農民工。隨着售價百餘元的山寨廉價手機的出現,中國移動電話用戶數量自2003年的2億7千萬增至2013年的12億。

早在1997年哈佛學者兼商業專家克萊頓·克里斯坦森(Clayton Christensen)在其暢銷書《創新者困境》中提出了“破壞性創新”這一概念。在這本備受炒作的書中,克里斯坦森提出,為了讓成功的公司保持成功,他們必須通過正視“破壞性創新”的重要性,來為將來的消費潮流改變及科技進步做出準備,或通過目光遠大的新興市場創新達到先發制人且意想不到的改變。筆者想要提到的是,中國式的破壞性創新通過對現有技術的創造性改編,實際上已經動搖了現有市場,併產生了一個新興市場,成功吸引了像上文提到的具有小X這樣特徵的消費人群。的確,

創新性轉型的代價往往是非常高的,需要強大的財力支撐。而這些山寨創新打破了之前財力和技術的限制,讓普通人也能以可負擔而簡單的方式進行。

所謂的“顛覆性企業”們也不是單一的在現有市場中競爭,他們也力求迎合那些所謂的“非消費者”的需求,即那些在位企業生產的卻無法負擔的產品。對於中國的“顛覆性非消費者”來說,山寨產品提供了在功能上和時髦上都能滿足且負擔得起的另一種選擇。山寨產品通過對低收入人群提供一個灰色市場,讓他們能夠得到那些他們之前觸不可及的同類型產品,潛在地緩和了收入不均帶來的影響。山寨經濟已滿足了低收入人群的部分物質需求,就像某位蔡姓老人,一名典型的“非消費者”,在2010年的採訪中說到:

“我們不光買山寨手機,山寨名牌衣服、山寨名牌手錶、山寨名牌灶具包括山寨名牌褲帶,只要是仿冒名牌貨,大家都愛買,不是我們不知道這是冒牌貨質量不好,而是我們買不起正牌貨,但又想滿足一下自己的虛榮心,買個山寨貨顯擺一下,裝點一下門面…”
小康山寨社會

儘管許多的山寨產品已經違反了中國的版權法,但政府對他們的容忍,在某種程度上可歸因於中共旨在維護社會的長治久安。近來,中共正致力於胡錦濤總書記於2014年提出的構建社會主義和諧社會的戰略任務中。這是對在中國共產黨成立一百年時全面建成小康社會這一“百年目標”(1921-2020)的補充。鑒於這些政策走向,中共有充分理由對這些山寨消費持默許的態度,因為這也是在為其利益服務。根據深圳大學法學學者段禮樂的說法,在山寨產品的購買行為中隱藏着獲得夢寐以求的產品的消費邏輯,並且購買山寨產品的“非消費者”人數的絕對規模,已悄然地導致政府做出放寬知識產權法執行力度的決定:

有人認為,中國知識產權保護不力導致“山寨”泛濫,要求從“山寨”入手加強中國的知識產權保護工作。但事實恰恰相反,並不是知識產權保護不力導致“山寨”問題產生,而是“山寨”背後的消費邏輯決定着中國知識產權保護不力。

經管山寨產品在理論上減小了收入不均帶來的影響,但諷刺的是,二流的“仿冒品”卻促使了社會分化成誰能買正品和誰買不起正品兩個階層。的確,山寨產品的增長很難抑制中國消費者對真正昂貴商品的渴望。在2011年中國市場研究集團的調查中,奢侈商品被視為中國26歲以下消費者人群的第三渴望商品(僅次於房屋和車輛)。

2012年,中國消費者對奢侈移動手機的痴迷和為得到而採取的極端的行為的話題在網絡上被形容為一個聲名狼藉的說法:“賣腎買蘋果”。這一說法起源於一媒體報道了一名17歲的少年,為得到最新的iphone和ipad,以20000元的價格賣掉了自己的一個腎。儘管官方記錄中並沒有這次交易,但調查發現,許多有抱負的中國中產階級節衣縮食僅為了偶爾能在奢侈商品上揮霍一下。這種現象被托斯丹·范伯倫(Thorstein Veblen)在其1899年經典的有閑階層理論中被指出:

…人類各個階層在服飾上的消費,絕大部分源於為了有一個光鮮體面的外表,而非僅僅為了遮羞蔽體;所以在寒冷暴風的天氣下,人們抵着生病的危險而衣着光鮮單薄的服裝絕不是一件稀罕事。

“中國特色的”山寨

儘管獲得山寨的複製品能夠提供與夠購買正品相似的滿足感,但這種虛榮的攀比行為卻加固了社會階級分化和社會自卑的觀念。山寨仿冒品的消費如此一來更加強化了以購買正版商品來暗示身份等級的作用,並且讓那些正版商品在比較下更加顯得令人渴望。如此明顯的矛盾也出現在了小說家余華的《十個詞彙里的中國》一書中:

就像人體的健康受到損傷時會出現炎症一樣,山寨現象就是日中國社會生態的炎症。炎症一方面是在抗擊病菌,另一方面也會帶來紅腫、膿包、潰爛和壞死。

是哪裡出現了問題?還是中國僅僅處在前往某個消費主導型經濟發展新常態的鐵軌之上?

—  高林,澳大利亞國立大學榮譽學士

圍城:留學記

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眾所周知,中國政府與國家漢辦為我們澳洲學生提供了許多留學的機會, 這是十分值得我們珍惜和感激的一種善舉。而且,留學的優點顯而易見,這是無可爭議的。今天,尊敬的大使館教育部為我們提供了很難得的一個好機會,對中澳兩國青年學生文化交流項目的運行做出直接的反饋,我願意結合自己的親身體會,表達我最誠摯的想法,使兩國間的教育合作更上一層樓。

中國得天獨厚的傳統文化應該是對留學生們進行熏陶的好資源,可是,我的疑問是,為什麼大多數外籍留學生在完成學業的時候語言水平還是連平常交流都不通順,更別提寫學術論文了。他們在中國留學時跟本地學生的生活是分開的,甚至成績要求都不一致。我個人認為語言不僅僅是一個交流的工具,而且也是幫助我們更好理解、研究、思考的一個基礎。想要提高中國的軟實力,就應該給外籍學生提供一個良好的交流與思考的平台。只有有了語言的基礎,才能夠引領我們更客觀地,更合理地理解中國的國情和文化。

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論辯論

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辯論

澳國立大學亞太學院東亞研究系主任馬克斯特蘭奇(右)為非母語組“最佳辯手”高林頒獎。《來源:人民日報》

辯論對我而言不僅是我的興趣愛好,他也是對我思想上的一種考驗。首先說這個“論”字,辯論是語言表達最高境界的一個應用。不管是華語辯論還是英語辯論,用非母語辯論還是用母語辯論,辯論重點不在於語言,而是在與個人的思想與邏輯。我本人參與英語辯論已經有十幾年了,參與華語辯論也有四年的時間。辯論比賽中真正能夠“論”的辯手,一定是在比賽之前從雙方不同的角度對辯題進行了非常深刻的思考與剖析。這就是辯論中的“論”。而“辯”這個字與“論”是相配的。孔子曰:“學而不思則罔,思而不學則殆。”能夠思考問題,卻不會表達、解釋並且對他人質疑之處不能做出抗辯的人,那麼他和不會思考的沒什麼兩樣。 “辯”需要語言技巧,需要靈活運用,也要讓大家對辯論題目有一個新的看法和認識。辯論是思想、心理和語言的結合,是個人與大眾的結合。陰陽相互依存,辯論也不例外。辯論中學到的知識、技巧與思維方式,不管是學業、工作還是思考人生,一定是會用得到的。

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