China Tried to Keep Kids Off Social Media. Now the Elderly Are Hooked (LAVENDER AU, NOV 25, 2023, Wired)

Gao is 69 years old, one of a growing cohort of elderly people who have moved away from television and gravitated to Douyin, China’s most popular short-form video app. There are 267 million people aged over 60 in China, according to official statistics, and while China’s government has tried to limit young people’s use of Douyin, worried about its addictive nature, many of the app’s habitual users are their parents, or even grandparents.

“Whenever he’s not cooking, swimming, or sleeping, he’s on Douyin,” his daughter Helen says. “It’s brainless entertainment. It’s better to be playing with a cat, it’s better to be doing anything else.” She’s not a Douyin user herself. “I already have attention problems,” she says. “Douyin would make that worse.”

A former soldier, Gao follows the Israel-Palestine crisis and the war between Ukraine and Russia through videos made by commentators. He shows me one where a political analyst translates headlines from English-language media outlets, such as The Times of Israel. He watches others for their analysis of military strategy.

While television broadcasts the official viewpoint, Gao says that on Douyin there are often videos from different camps putting their views across. The censors might get to them after a while, but it’s possible to witness a spectrum of opinions.


China’s Self-Inflicted Economic Wounds (TAKATOSHI ITO, 11/21/23, Project Syndicate)

[X]i’s obsession with control continues to pose a serious threat to China’s prospects. Not only does it hamper innovation by domestic firms; it also discourages foreign investment.

Already, foreign companies, such as the polling and consultancy group Gallup, are fleeing the country. This can be partly explained by China’s economic slowdown, which has reduced the availability of high-return investment opportunities and, together with demographic trends, promises to shrink the Chinese market over time. But, with China still targeting 5% growth, there is clearly more going on.

In fact, foreign companies worry about becoming the target of spurious antitrust investigations, and fear that the newly expanded, but deliberately vague counter-espionage law could result in them being punished for normal business activities. Of course, US restrictions on high-tech exports to and investment in China are not helping matters.

China today shares many features with Japan in the 1980s. But the biggest risks to its economic prospects are all homegrown. By prioritizing security and stability – through surveillance, control, and coercion – over economic dynamism, China’s leaders are abandoning some of the policies and principles that underpinned the country’s “economic miracle.”

You can’t have a Clash of Civilizations when there is only one.