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Blogs, pics leap China’s Wall

Computer culture seeps into biz

Google may have run headlong into the Great Firewall of China, but upstart filmmakers and bloggers are knocking out a few cyber bricks.

“The Steamed Bun Murder,” a 20-minute parody of Chen Kaige‘s “The Promise,” was an online sensation, tweaking a big-budget epic from one of China’s biggest auteurs.

Late 2005 saw the country’s first movie about a blogger, “A Hard Day’s Night,” bow in Beijing. The witty 50-minute pic chronicles an ordinary blogger’s night gone wrong, when he’s picked up by police for armed robbery, then mistaken for a famous thesp, then a music critic.

Pic was scripted, helmed and distributed by 30 enthusiastic bloggers who shot and edited it using a $500 digital camera and a PC. Total cost: $123.50.

Blogs are revolutionary in China in that they are the most widely available — and most widely used — form of free expression China has ever seen.

“Before the Internet, there was no public space to articulate individual political opinion,” says Roland Soong, whose EastSouthWestNorth, or ESNW, blog is widely considered the most influential in the Chinese language. “What was one to do? Write a letter to a newspaper? Or publish your own book?”

There are now millions of Chinese bloggers, and the government is keeping a close eye. The blog of Michael Anti, an outspoken political blogger, was shut down in December, and several writers have been jailed over sensitive content in emails and postings.

Some 40,000 Net Nannies help the government maintain its tight rein on the Internet. But China’s 111 million Netizens are keeping one step ahead. Among Chinese bloggers, reaction to the whole Google affair was one of indifference.

“If I am looking for a nonsensitive subject in Chinese, I will use (Chinese search engine) Baidu first rather than Google. Baidu is simply better with Chinese sources,” says one blogger.

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