Increased media censorship in China

Ruby Yuan, Staff

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On February 19, 2016, the President of China, JinPing Xi, officially and publicly demanded the news media serve the Communist Party of China (CPC).

According to The New York Times, President Xi said, “All news media run by the Communist Party of China must work to speak for the party’s will and its propositions and protect the party’s authority and unity.”

China’s official broadcast media, China Central Television News, said that President Xi asked all state or party owned news organizations to produce work that reflects CPC’s ideology and protect the interests and authority of the federal government. Moreover, President Xi urged the incorporation of Marxism into journalism and asserted that news should generate public support for CPC.

President Xi also said besides print and broadcast news, magazine, digital media and TV shows are also expected to lead the public opinion in the direction of the CPC and abide by the communist agenda.

On Feb. 20, 2016, Chinese agencies pushed for policies that would require foreign companies in China to receive government approval before publishing content online. China is one of the seven countries in the world that block Facebook. Besides Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, Bloomberg and The New York Times are all blocked in China. Google has been blocked, too, and some speculate that the company withdrew from China because they did not want to follow the regulations imposed by the government. On Dec. 4, 2015, the Chinese government tried to block Wikipedia completely and caused dissent amongst users. On Dec. 6, the government restored access to Wikipedia, providing all language services except for Chinese.   

On Feb. 26, 2016, several popular Weibo accounts, which is an equivalent to Chinese Twitter, were shut down by government regulators for publishing criticism of the CPC. These online celebrities, including lawyers, actors and common citizens, were accused of violating the government’s interest and honor. Two days later, the Weibo of Ren Zhiqiang, a famous Chinese real estate tycoon known for his sharp tongue, was coercively closed for criticizing the Chinese leadership. He was charged as an instigator against the principle of the Communist Constitution.

A firewall system established by the CPC constantly monitors and controls the information on Chinese network traffic. The firewall’s main role is to filter and block foreign websites that the CPC does not want Chinese people to see. An editorial published by the Global Times, a Chinese newspaper, claimed the Chinese firewall system ensures the stable order of society although it sacrifices the freedom of accessing information. The editorial also stated that history would give the firewall a fair evaluation.

Mrs. Solomon, the AP World History and AP Government and Politics teacher, said state-run media gives governments a great deal of control over information because they can decide on the content presented to the people, consequently shaping the public opinion. She said blocking social media and websites reflects the Chinese government’s intention of quieting voices.

In China, people who stand with the government’s regulation on media argue that some Chinese people are not wise and mature enough to accurately judge all the information from a sea of foreign media sources. So in order to keep them from false, inappropriate and misleading information, the Chinese government has justified their regulations.

“Blocking these media websites is allowing the government to reshape reality and to create a false world,” Mrs. Solomon said. “It is convenient for the government to keep people from rising up.”          

She said taking away individual liberty for the sake of ensuring order has been used “countless times” by tyrannies and totalitarians, such as Benito Mussolini.

“It is one more step to [take] control over the nation to be loyal to [the government],” she said. “Government controlled media threatens journalists [by silencing]  any opposite voices.”

In addition to blocking media websites and resorting to internet regulations, the Chinese government also constantly censors and filters online content. Due to the fact that Google is unavailable in China, Chinese people use Baidu as their primary search engine. Tied by the government regulation, Baidu cannot display information against the Chinese government. For example, searching “Tiananmen Square Protest” (or “June Fourth Event”), the pro-democracy protest in 1990s China, on Baidu will display two to three pages of information related to the Tiananmen Square Protest, and the rest of information either focuses on the Xinhai Revolution or Cultural Revolution, totally different events whose background having similar keywords. Moreover, the top search results state in bold font that “due to the relevant laws, policies and regulations, parts of the results cannot be shown.” High government officials’ names are also sensitive keywords. For example, keyword searching such as “Jiabao Wen (Former Chinese Primer) Liar or Clown” will also be filtered.  

Michele Turner, Ms. Dalrymple’s American cousin-in-law, is currently teaching in Concordia International School in Shanghai, China. Mrs. Turner cannot read Chinese; therefore, for a while, she only read The Shanghai Daily, which is a newspaper in English.

Mrs. Turner said a big difference of Chinese news reporting from American news is that most Chinese news was upbeat

“It is disheartening to know that the people’s voices can’t be heard.” she said.

Mrs. Turner said all teachers and students at her school use VPN to get on blocked websites for educational purpose, such as Google Docs.

“It occasionally doesn’t work well particularly on Chinese national holidays but overall does the job,” she said. “We assume in general that what we write or say on the internet could be monitored, but it doesn’t really affect us because we use our words judiciously whether in America or abroad.”

Though China had evolved to be more open to western culture under the former president’s reign, the current president of China has been tightening media regulations and surveillance for political purposes. The freedom of speech and the freedom of the press in China is retrogressing because of censorship.

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