Who deserves my thanks, the people of China, the Chinese Communist Party, both, or neither?. (Spoiler: I do not meet a definitive conclusion, but feel free to read between the lines) (1st draft)
I imagine it surprises few who know me that I’m not particularly a strong fan of your ruling Communist Party, China, but I do admire your citizens. You’re a country with great people, whose freedom continues to be curtailed, unfortunately, by authoritarian government.
I owe someone thanks for my the great spike in web traffic to this site. I will not, however, be giving any thanks or applause to what may possibly be an extension of the Chinese cyber surveillance apparatus. China, where webtraffic is greatly filtered and distilled into “approved” narratives for the average netizen, has become the second largest source of webtraffic to pages within the https://www.jamesyandre.com domain the past month alone. Formerly it was not even in my top ten national sources of web traffic.
Year-to-date as of July 28,2019
Year-to-date as of August 28, 2019
I speculate that I (more specifically this personal business site of mine, which frequently intersects with photojournalism) have become a target of at most bots monitoring information perceived to be potentially transgressive to the ruling elite within the People’s Republic of China.
Now at first guess I would certainly have been unsurprised if my website got blocked in China following my blog post commemorating the, then forthcoming, 30 year anniversary of the Tiananmen Square Massacre of Pro-Democratic student protestors in Bejing by the the overbearing People’s Liberation Army (PLA). Yet this was posted many moths earlier, on April 20th 2019. <https://www.jamesyandre.com/blog/2019/4/20/thoughts-on-unofficial-leica-film-revolving-around-photojournalists-while-also-depicting-tiananmen-square-massacre> or the the reposting of the removed link to the Leica tribute to photojournalists on the ground. This has since been removed too, most likely at the request of Leica which has business relationships within mainland China that make such publicity bad for the company’s continued business endeavors in the country. <https://www.jamesyandre.com/blog/2019/5/17/o2fcc2ds16v1krcna66jf9r79hajn9>
This, however, does not appear to be the case. Squarespace Analytics clearly shows the uptick in “web visits” from China (possibly bots, following a particular algorithm, something I’m not personally capable of determining) occurred over this past month. Now, as I mentioned, I wouldn’t be extremely surprised if my mentioning of the “Tiananmen Square Massacre” were to place me outside the curtained-off internet that is accessible to the average Chinese national. In fact, bringing up such a factual moment in history up in conversation whilst in China could foreseeably result in the person who discussed it, being forcefully removed from the country.
Also it is certainly possible the bots filter sensitive materially from the prying eyes viewing the internet through the blinders of Weibow, took some time to identify and categorize my very small online footprint from a massive web of information. And if it wasn’t flagged for removal from Chinese search results, I’m fairly certain it is now. But then again, why did this trigger more than a hundred page hits over the past month?
I think it is most logical to presume that my site’s twitter feed, which I have embedded at the bottom of each page on the Jamesy Andre domain, has been a rich target for for an increasingly vigilant information scrubbing campaign by the Chinese government- that is actually bred from the internet that is accessible within mainland China.
It is pretty reasonable to conclude that for the past few weeks a prevailing theme of my tweets and more frequent retweeets this past month have centered on the the excellent photojournalism coming out of the coverage of the Hong Kong Protests that have now passed 80 days, in their duration, surpassing the length of the historic Umbrella Movement protests in 2014. From the immense crowd size that continues to take to the streets, to the severity of of the question of whether mainland China yields any meaningfully legitimate political power in Hong Kong, is for many people, an open question for the first time since It was transferred from the British to Chinese in 1997.
China’s public communications surrounding this movement have probably not been that surprising to most. They have acted mostly in a manner that you would expect of an authoritarian regime; that is, an authoritarian regime that knows a lot international viewers have their attention on this and need to act as much as possible behind a coordinated PR front, using the Hong Kong Police they’ve gained an upper hand with to carry out most of their directives thus far.
Nonetheless, the conjecture I’ve made here about the web traffic anomalies for my tiny site in addition to my less than novice geopolitical musings are just these things, pure conjuncture and musings that occupy my mind in these moments.
Best wishes for a free and democratic Hong Kong,