by Raphaëlle Laubie, a blogger invited to the 2012 Women’s Forum by Orange
Following the “Gala” evening for which the Deauville Casino had been specially fitted out…the sparsely occupied rows in the morning plenary session bore witness to a hard morning after the night before.
But so what? This didn’t prevent the third and last day starting by raising awareness of what we all more or less know. In this case, it had the merit of being documented and analysed, with research performed by Harvard researchers on hand, and tested directly on the audience, if we still needed to turn the demonstration into evidence.
Nathalie Malige, the CEO of Diverseo, bases her approach on studying the way the brain works, while Ray Kurzweil actually told us that the brain will soon reveal all its secrets among other “particularities”… The aim here is clear: to combat cognitive distortions (and even automatic cognition processes) in order to encourage women’s access to senior management positions; as leadership is most often associated with the male gender. As a reminder, cognition is the scientific term for the thought process. Nathalie Malige’s research therefore reflects one way in which the brain works – by simplifying it to the extreme – on two levels, which she incidentally calls “processors”. Processor No 1 uses reflective cognition, while Processor No 2 twists – if I dare say so – this analysis via automatic processes that hinder reflective cognition where 20% of the decision-making process is concerned. Meanwhile, given the clichés that associate leadership with the male gender, this prevents women gaining access to positions that are most often predestined for men. Surprising, eh?
However, let’s go back to China’s geopolitical outlook. This new round table discussion focuses on governance, and on forthcoming changes in the country’s direction. Indeed, the General Secretary of the Communist Party, Hu Jintao, is expected to step down. Xi Jinping, the current Vice-President, is expected to replace him in October. As in any country during an election period, the political process is paralysed, and many decisions have not been taken.
This will be the fifth generation of leaders to govern China. They are better educated and have studied fundamental economic principles. We must hope that these advantages will have a bearing on the decisions that will be taken. Meanwhile, the Chinese people, who are crippled by uncertainty, are looking for signs regarding potential forthcoming reforms.
Susan Shirk, who has been a China specialist since 1971, returned to the fall of Bo Xilai, who was denounced by Wang Linjun, his right-hand man. The announcement of Bo Xilai’s suspension from the Chinese Communist Party was made very recently, on 10 April this year. The reason? Bo Xilai’s wife, Gu Kailai, was condemned to a commuted death sentence for the murder of a British citizen. However, if we dig a little deeper, Wang Linjun, the former Chief of Police for the Chongqing Urban District, did not exactly turn out to be honest. Wang Linjun was inevitably condemned to 15 years in prison for abuse of power and corruption. What does this teach us? That the State is no longer above the law. Meanwhile, Susan Shirk believes that this sorry tale is likely to act as a catalyst for the in-depth reforms that the people want. She saw this betrayal as all the more painful, since Bo Xilai, who had excellent communication skills, was displaying more populist intentions, while the current period is sending out alarming signals that are revealing serious structural issues, such as the slowdown in the economy, the slowdown in industrial output, and the slowdown in export growth.
Hu Shuli, the Senior Editor at Caixin Media, supported this opinion, when he told us about the “farmers’” riot in July this year. The farmers were accusing their leaders of having forced them to accept being cleared from their land without any significant compensation. The farmers are more educated nowadays; they are aware of their rights, and willing to demonstrate in order to defend them. Minxin Pei, the Head of Strategic Studies at the Keck Center, painted a darker picture of the outlook, when he asserted that China is on the eve of a political revolution, as it faces corruption, major inequalities between its citizens, excessive housing costs, and a level of education that is still too low. The Chinese people are becoming less afraid of the existing regime. The people expect a lot from the new team of leaders, and no longer hesitate to make their voice heard. Susan Shirk added that 300 million Chinese people use Weibo, the local micro-blogging website, and that despite the fact that Government censorship exists, it is becoming increasingly hard to apply. A good development model for China would undoubtedly be the one used by South Korea and Taiwan. These countries’ enlightened approach advocates a gradual transition towards democracy. Meanwhile, China is not immune from a major conflict with Japan over the Senkaku islands, which China is claiming for political, but primarily economic reasons. Lastly, given all these uncertainties, the only fact that is certain and obvious is the absence of women in positions of political power. Yan Lan, the Executive Director for Lazard in China, was surprised that 50% of the members of the French Government are women. In China, women are very active and well represented in the private sector (free competition), but not really represented in the public sector.
The next topic related to the gift economy, or how the concept of a gift, combined with information and communication technologies, was enabling the development of a collective consumption phenomenon. If you want to go back to the origins of the gift concept, I recommend the excellent book by Norbert Alter: Donner et Prendre (Giving and Taking). Helen Goulden, the Head of Nesta explained – as if we still needed to remind you – that the collective consumption phenomenon is a growing movement, which is based on the traditional concepts of negotiation, exchange and lending, and applies them to the economy of the 21st century. Depending on the sectors of activity, the market is already worth billions of dollars, and is destined for a steep take-off. I’ll leave you to find out about the principles (again) in a video:
Last, but not less captivating, was the session on social networks in China, expertly headed by Séverine Arsène, a Researcher at the Laboratoire Communication et Politique (the French Communications and Politics Laboratory). The main issue was censorship, and the way in which it is applied. In China, each 2.0 service has its “copycat(s)” Michael Anti, a journalist and political blogger, told us. Google has Baidu, YouTube has Youku and Tudou, Facebook has Renren, and Twitter has Weibo, etc.
Weibo alone has 500 million desk-top users and over one million mobile users. Michael Anti likes to use this image when talking about the Internet in China: “It’s really like putting Facebook and Twitter’s servers in the White House, so that political leaders can control everything!” What are the means of censorship? The “great firewall”, which is the name given to the Government’s filtering and monitoring system. This giant intranet is an ultra-sophisticated monitoring tool, which censures the web on three levels: domain names, URLs, and key words. Thorough work is carried out on key words, and is updated very regularly. For example, at the time of Bo Xilai’s fall, any damaging information that concerned him was made available to the public, as the Government merrily moved from political “dumping” to a media lynching. Usually, no online information is available on China’s political leaders…Regardless of the situation, it is obvious that the younger generation is “toying with”, testing, and pushing back the censorship limits, depending on the experience of those involved. This generation is much more “adventurous” than previous generations. Meanwhile, the use of tools like “proxies” or VPNs enables people to get around the censorship, even if they are not (yet) widely used by many Chinese people. However, despite the fact that it is banned, Facebook currently has over half a million users in China. And as long as China (like Russia) cannot rid itself of ICANN’s governance over the Internet, the undoubtedly much higher risk, in terms of censorship powers and strict protectionism, of the introduction of a parallel Internet will not be able to emerge.