China must balance prosperity with civil liberty- Chi-Chu


Chi-Chu, financial journalist, an MBA candidate in Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a lover of basketball, has spent his entire working life doing journalism. In a career that spanned over a decade, Chi-Chu worked as foreign correspondent for different U.S news organisations.
An American of Chinese origin born and bred in Califonia, Chi-Chu’s entire journalism career has been in China. His deep understanding of the political and economic issues in China and the implications of the country’s rising global profile for its citizens and the international community, tells of his many years reporting and analysing the Asian giant.
For this member of the pen profession, why the interest in MBA? Chi-Chu’s present pursuit some ways, underscores the transition that journalism as a profession is undergoing generally in this age of internet and the likelihood of a career switch for him in future.
While a future career change could take away his reporter’s notebook and pen from him, Chi-Chu’s understanding of China is likely keep him an analyst of this economic phenomenon for much longer. As the world keeps a close eye on China, he examines some of the challenges that the country must overcome to make its present growth more meaningful for the ordinary Chinese and long for free press in China. In this interview with Evely Tagbo, Chi-Chu has more to say;

Audio form of the interview


Award-winning Nigerian journalist baffled by nation’s splits

Nigerian journalist Godwin Nnanna has won more awards for his reporting than most entire newsrooms, but there’s one story that he always struggles to understand – why Africa’s most populous nation is still so poor and riven by religious strife.

Godwin, who says he might have become a Christian preacher if he hadn’t gone into the newspaper business, has been watching with anguish a campaign of bombings in Nigeria by the Islamist militant sect Boko Haram that has killed more than 900 people since 2009.

“Our Christmas was not too happy one for us because the Church was bombed back home, and then people my wife knew, people she is related with, people she has worshipped with, were killed,” he said. Thirty-seven died in that Dec. 25 attack.

“This country ordinarily should be a giant,” he said in an interview at the Knight Science Journalism office in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where he is living with his wife and two children and studying as an affiliate at Harvard and MIT. Nigeria has 160 million people, almost double that of any other African nation.

“This is a time in history when numbers matter,” he said, pointing to the rise of nations led by China and India partly linked to their populations of more than a billion people each.

“We are such a huge market. We have a huge population and we have such enormous resources…there is no reason why we should not compete.”

One big drawback, dating from British colonial rule, was the 1914 creation of a country split between a mostly Muslim north and a mainly Christian south that have been uneasily living together ever since.

“I have really never seen a country with our uniqueness, almost on a 50-50 basis Muslims and Christians. Most countries have one religion dominant,” he said. Boko Haram, loosely based on the Taliban in Afghanistan, wants to impose sharia law across Nigeria.

With better leadership, Nigeria could have grown to be prosperous like Malaysia or South Korea since independence in 1960, he says, rapping the table to drive home his point. Nigeria has plenty of resources – it is a big oil producer and an exporter of farm products such as rubber and cocoa.

But still things don’t work.

“It’s an impossibility to be in Nigeria for a whole day and the light doesn’t go off,” he said. One recent study showed that 93 percent of Nigerians felt they were poor — the official figure is lower, but still an alarming 60 percent.

“Nigerians’ loyalty is not to the center, ironically. Unlike Americans who say ‘God bless America’ and are ready to die for their country, not too many people show that kind of passion for Nigeria.”

“Everyone is keen about where they come from. ‘I am a Yoruba man’, Or ‘I am a Hausa man’ or ‘I am an Ibo man’. Or each one says ‘I am a Christian or ‘I am a Muslim,” he said. And in politics, each religion, region and group expects “its turn” to rule.”

That just might lead to divorce, or an agreed shift to devolve more power to the regions. “If you read newspapers in Nigeria today, a lot of people are clamouring for a sovereign national conference…to agree as a people if they want to be together,” he said.

Godwin, who will be 38 in May and whose surname Nnanna means “grandfather”, said he was propelled towards journalism by a love of writing. He gave his teachers cans of coca cola to read and mark the extra essays he wrote beyond the normal school work. (see box below)

He is head of investigations at BusinessDay and a co-founder of the Economic and Financial Times and said he was also driven by a desire to expose injustice.

His writing skills have paid off since he started journalism in 1997 with a string of more than a dozen national and international awards, including two from the United Nations. His work has ranged from exposing the dangers of flaring of gas in the Niger Delta to writing about a political crisis in Ivory Coast. (see box below)

Godwin said he will always be a writer even if he moves on to do more editing of stories rather than working on the front lines.

He said that his disappointment about Nigeria’s failure to live up to its promise are summed up by Wole Soyinka, the Nigerian writer who won the 1986 Nobel Prize for Literature.

“Wole Soyinka…said he hated the word potential because that seems to be the only identity of Nigeria today,” Godwin says. “Everybody talks about Nigeria in terms of potential. Potential, potential, potential, for almost 60 years and still it’s the potential.”



Head of Investigations at BusinessDay
Co-founder, Managing Editor of Economic and Financial Times
Awards (14 in total; highlights):
2010 – Winner, Citi Journalistic Excellence Awards (Nigeria)
2008 – Finalist, CNN African Journalist of the Year
2007 – Silver medal, Elizabeth Neuffer Memorial Prize for written media (UNCA Awards)
2007 – Winner, Nigeria Media Merit Awards (NMMA), Environment Journalist of the year
2006 – Gold medal, UN Foundation’s prize for reporting Humanitarian and Development issues.
2006 – Fellow, Dag Hammarksjold Scholarship Fund for Journalists (UN Journalism fellowship)

“I have always loved writing. In secondary school, I took it upon myself, before I did my high school exams, to put together all the exams from the past 15 years and then I did all the essay questions — I would write it and submit it to my teacher. I would take my pocket money and get a can of coke for the teacher and he would mark it for me…I did other self-inflicted exercises, I did like to sit and watch television discussion on national issues I would listen to it and make an essay out of it.

“If I wasn’t a journalist perhaps I would be a preacher.”
I feel strongly about injustice, I feel strongly when things don’t work very well
When I was growing up I was very religious. I still am. I was involved, at one point I was doing a great deal of aid, leading a team to the prisons in Lagos, the maximum, the medium prisons. It was a case of giving them hope, letting them know that there is a life beyond the prison. I did that for a couple of years before journalism came to take the better part of me.

Knowing Neha Narula

What happens when computer scientist studying distributed systems gets mashed up with the Media Lab’s own mashup of news and participatory media? We’re all finding out as we get to know Neha Narula. She’s a 5th-year Ph.D. student at MIT’s Computer Science & Artificial Intelligence Lab (CSAIL) who works on distributed systems and security, blogs about Indian food and turntables, and confesses that the cartoon “Jem” may have been her inspiration for pursuing CS. Some of the questions Neha’s pursuing remind me of the life of Chekhov. Learn why from our conversation highlights:

Better Know a Classmate: Eugene Wu

At only 26 years of age, Eugene Wu is already an expert in the design of computer databases. He’s a fifth-year PhD student at MIT’s world-renowned Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL). Wu has published sixteen scholarly pieces (the first in 2004, when he was only 18), and has balanced his academic study with internships at Google, Yahoo, Microsoft, and IBM.

Yet Wu didn’t start using computers in any serious capacity until he took a computer class in high school. Computers weren’t easily accessible, outside of basic word processing and the occasional educational game in an elementary school classroom. Wu’s story underscores the power of advanced educational opportunities, and the long-term ramifications of these encounters early in a career.

Wu has wisely used his summers to advance his education and career. When he was still in high school in Berkeley, California, Wu spent his summers taking college classes at nearby UC Berkeley. By the time he graduated, he had finished the pre-requisites for Computer Science, which allowed him to get a running start his freshman year of college.

The summer after his freshman year also proved to be a pivotal time. After being turned down by Microsoft and a couple of other computer scientists he sought to work with, a Teaching Assistant from one of his classes recruited him to work on a database project. The project proved very successful, and spawned most of his following undergraduate research.

He’s a Teacher

Wu has rounded out his scholarship by actively teaching others. After finishing his Master’s degree, Wu traveled to the Middle East to coach Israeli and Palestinian students in a program called Middle East Education through Technology (MEET). He mentored teams of high school seniors as they worked together on technology projects. Wu’s also taught a course on introduction to Java, which is now listed in MIT’s Open Courseware. He also created a course on Data Literacy, which ended up training biologists, doctors, and other professionals across disciplines to better understand their professions’ data.

He’s an Athlete

In addition to his graduate and teaching work, Wu also appears to have a life outside of the academy. He’s traveled the West Coast playing in Ultimate Frisbee tournaments, and designed the jersey for MIT’s Ultimate team, the Grim Beavers.

He’s a Developer

For an earlier assignment in his Participatory News course, Wu built a Chrome browser extension called IdeaPrint to track his media diet, as measured by the major websites he visited most. Offline, though, he admits that he primarily reads comics, not books. His preferred genres are Japanese and Chinese manga and graphic novels. In the face of his workload, Wu struggles to keep up with popular culture and world news.

He’s an Artist

The comic books inform Wu’s artistic side. When he’s not using people to crowdsource database queries, he’s drawing. A housemate, who asked to remain anonymous because she lives with Wu, remarked that he has a talent for drawing and noticing the details: “Like, he’ll draw a monster and name it “Gregory” and everybody will be like “YES, that is a GREGORY.” Wu’s illustrations have been commissioned by a group at the Media Lab, for which he was compensated with an Xbox 360 and several videogames.

Other students at MIT admire Wu’s combination of technical and artistic talents. Classmate Travis Rich remembers being impressed by Wu’s sketchbook illustrations, only to walk into a Python course and find that Wu was the instructor. “He’s like Brad Pitt,” says Rich. “He’s got it all.”

He’s an Eater

“Every time he eats food, it looks like he’s never eaten before in his life,” says Wu’s anonymous housemate. “A lot of people call him Kobayashi. His favorite item is this green chopper thing that chops up onions by putting it underneath the thing and then pumping vigorously. He made me by one too because there was a buy one get one free deal.”

What Else Will He Be?

For someone with so much under his belt already, Wu’s not entirely sure what the future holds in store. His experience has informed the parameters for his next moves, though. He’d prefer to work in a consumer-facing organization rather than academia, and his experience with the giants of the internet has inspired him to work at a smaller organization. He’s considering possibilities involving the news and media worlds, either in the form of startup or nonprofit.

Future plans could involve Wu’s desire to improve the news media, and could specifically address reader and producer biases. Wu’s concerned that context is often missing in individual news pieces, where one data point is presented without the related trends and information. As a human, he says, we should really only have to read one or two articles per day, he says, rather than an entire Twitter stream.

But Most Importantly, Is He a Robot, Pirate, or Ninja?

“Robots are kind of clunky, you don’t want to go with that,” Wu says. “Pirates are out of date, and they don’t really have any abilities, other than like, being dirty and shooting guns, right? Ninjas require actual skill.”




The key principles that must be followed in any election is that a large portion of the voters participate in the process, and that there is a lack of corruption. The 2012 Presidential Election has become a major turning point in the United States’ election process, in that both principles have disappeared from the radar. Despite the efforts of organizations such as rock the vote, voter apathy has only increased since the last election. When interviewed, many cited a lack of faith in the political system and the amount of corruption.

These complaints stem from the second change — the unprecedented emphasis on money. Money has always been a part of the process. Many experts argue that Obama won the 2008 election by spending a record shattering $700 million on his campaign, as opposed to McCain’s $100 million. Despite the campaign funding, here was still a limit on how much an individual could donate to a candidate. However, the birth of a new player — the SuperPAC — is poised to change completely change the election process by giving wealthy individuals and organizations the power to directly market and advertise on behalf (or against) candidiates all the way up until election day.

This issue was once again brought to light at a recent talk at MIT’s Media Lab by political activist and director of the Foundation for Ethics at Harvard University, Lawrence Lessig. Lessig has focused the past five years on battling political corruption and focused the discussion on systemic corruption in the current political system.

He emphasized SuperPACs as a poingnent example of corruption. The January 2010 ruling of Citizens United vs the FEC overturned a law that prohibited corporations and unions from spending on “electioneering communication”, which encompasses any television, radio or other communication that mentions a candidate close to election time. This was designed to limit the amount of influence third parties can have on the election. With the law overturned, any corporation can act a candidate’s third arm and effectively help fund the candidate’s marketing campaign throughout the election. Candidates are no longer


There has been a surge in the number and funding of SuperPACs. The following diagram depicts the number of (dashed line) and total funding of (solid line) SuperPACs over the past ten years. Although SuperPACs (otherwise called Individual Expenditures) have always existed, the number has doubled since the Citizens United ruling, while the total funding has increased 12 fold, from $9 million to $122 million.

Not only have the number and total funding of SuperPACs gone up, so has the disparity of the top PACs compared to smaller PACs. The following diagram is a cumulative plot of PAC funds. The x-axis show’s the size of a single PAC’s (let’s call it PACMan) funds in the millions, while the y-axis shows the cumulative amount of funds of all PACs the same size or smaller than PACMan. Each differently colored line is the data for a different year. We see a similar story, before 2010, the largest PAC only had $2.5 million. Now, the largest SuperPACs how command over $35 million, far more than some candidates’ entire budgets in the last election. This is money used to not only back candidates that support the SuperPAC’s policies, but to attack candidates that speak contrary to the SuperPac’s opinions.

Lawrence made a powerful point during his talk. The mere existance of SuperPACs with so much money and power will force politicans to buy political insurance. Politicans will cater to a SuperPac policies in fear that competitor comes along armed with a different SuperPAC. At what point will these politicans consider the public?

All data provided by the Federal Election Committee.

All source code available on github.

started 10PM Feb 21

ended 2AM Feb 22