Meet Roland Soong, one of the few individuals translating mainland Chinese news into English. He publishes those stories on his blog: EastSouthWestNorth. Soong takes popular news stories covered in Western press, and looks through the two dozen Chinese domestic newspapers, as well as other media for Chinese coverage on those same stories. The blog presents the Western story, followed by translated coverage from within China of that same story. This results in some interesting twists, as the other side of the story emerges.
For example, in February, the following item hit Western media sources: Google accuses Chinese government of using students to hack gmail accounts
Several Western newspapers published the names and qualifications of the two academic culprits: one of which was Lanxiang Vocational School. The New York Times described Lanxiang as a vocational school in eastern China that "was established with military support and trains computer scientists for the military." The Washington Post reported that "the Lanxiang Vocational helped create what has become known as China's Great Firewall. According to the school's Web site, it established a military department in 2006 to train high quality technology officers. Many of those students have gone on to form 'the important technology backbone' of the People's Liberation Army."
When Soong visited the Lanxiang school's web site, he found eight academic tracks:
- Automobile maintenance / repair
- Numerical control of factory instruments / equipment
- Bulldozer / Forklist / Earth excavation
- Professional cooking
- Beauty / hairdressing
- Electrical / mechanical machine maintenance and repair
Soong translates reports of the story and its impact from inside China. Two of my favorites include this from Qilu Evening News:
The school's Office Director Mr. Zhou did not meet with our reporter. He only said over the telephone: "These reports are nonsense fabrications. Several days ago, a Chinese-speaking woman called up under the pretext of asking questions about student enrollment. She did not identify herself. We teach mainly motor vehicle maintenance/repair, and some of those students eventually joined the military to maintain/repair vehicles. It is also said that there is a Ukrainian professor teaching here. That is preposterous. Our school does not have any foreign teachers. We are not licensed to hire foreign teaches. Besides, we did not decline to answer the question about whether there was a Ukrainian teacher here -- she simply never asked."
The school's chairman Rong Lanxiang said: "British and French media also published that fake report. Many foreign reporters called about this matter. They are making this up. We have students who go into the military as allowed by the military recruitment policy. It is an open process to recruit local talents to join the military. What is there to it? Our computer room has more than 2,000 machines. But it has nothing to do with Baidu. They even said that we have a military background. That is laughable."
The reporter also tried to find leads among students. On the afternoon of February 20, our reporter found a student association cadre outside the Lanxiang Vocational School campus. He said that he had not read the New York Times report, but he is familiar with the rumor from the Internet.
He said: "In our computer classes, we learn very simple computer skills. We learn basic applied skills such as how to make pictures. Where do we get hacker skills? Some students may have attended a few days of computer school somewhere and then go to boast at Baidu that they are hackers. It is not true that the school is training hackers."
And proof that The Great Firewall does not censor sarcasm, this from Tianya Forum
Soong also includes in this blog entry subsequent stories from the Western press as it begins absorbing the rest of the story:
Recently, Lanxiang hacked Google and came to the attention of the US National Security Administration. When the hack was exposed by the New York Times, Lanxiang suddenly became famous. Actually, I am not surprised at all. As a Lanxiang worker, I know many things. For reasons of national security, I cannot tell all. But I will tell you the following.
- Lanxiang does have a military background. The five schools Lanxiang, Tsinghua University, Harbin Institute of Technology, National University of Defense Technology and Shanghai Jiatong University are involved in a major national defense project whose purpose must be kept secret. Not just any institute was allowed to participate. Tsinghua has the means, Harbin Institute of Technology is the big brother of national defense technology and engineering, National University of Defense Technlogy is the big brother of military schools and Lanxiang provides the secret base.
- Shanghai Jiatong originally did not qualify. However, it was able to join through the efforts of an alumnus (you don't need to ask who!). We are mainly responsible for electronic interference and Internet warfare research. I cannot go into too much detail. Peking University and the Beijing Institute of Technology applied to join but they were turned down.
- Lanxiang has eight specialty areas.
- Numerical control is actually robotics.
- Cuisine is actually the manufacturing of chemical weapons and defensive measures.
- Automobile repair is actually manufacturing robots and heavy war machines.
- Excavation machines are actually advanced robotics.
- Cosmetology is actually disguise and tactical deception.
- Welding is actually design of laser-based and high-energy particle weapons.
- Wireless is actually electromagnetic monitoring and early warning systems.
- Computers ... no explanations are necessary.
- Although Lanxiang is good in computers, it is not necessary what it is best at. The four best disciplines at Lanxiang are numerical control, automobile repair, excavation and welding. Computers are ranked somewhere between fifth and seventh, but Lanxiang is already unmatched in all of China. By the way, we invented the Galaxy computer. However, due to the need to maintain secrecy, we gave it to the National University of Defense Technology.
- According to what I know, the best tank in China was secretly developed by the automobile repair department. Due to national secrecy considerations, credit was given to other universities instead. The welders work mainly on welding satellites and rockets, but they are not as good as Harbin Institute of Technology. For this reason, the leaders are very upset. Therefore, the teachers in the Welding Department are under a lot of pressure. Last year two of them quit, one to become a professor at the Imperial College, London and the other to Taiwan. The government tried to stop them. One general exclaimed that the person leaving for Taiwan was equivalent to five army divisions. However, the action was unsuccessful due to interference by the CIA.
- The government had considered letting Lanxiang join the 985 project, but the Central Military Commission vetoed it because the best instruments of the state should not be revealed. In Lanxiang, many teachers did not agree either, because it would be a major dishonor for a secret and excellent institute such as Lanxiang to be listed along the side of second-rate institutions such as Hunan University, Chongqing University, Huanan Institute of Technology and so on.
- The current "Hacker Gate" was a surprise, because it came as a result of a romantic quarrel between a teacher and a student (who was a graduate student named Ying from the Northwestern Institute of Technology and has been here for two years) fell in love with the same female student. The teacher threatened to fail the student. The student begged for mercy. The teacher said that he would pass the student provided he hacked Google. The result was ...
- In China, many things cannot be revealed to the outside because of national security issues.
- I can only say this much, because I would be invited to have tea if I say more.
The Inquirer: Google was Brought Down by Chinese Hairdressers
Reuters: Schools Accused in Google Hacking Case Ask: "Why us?"