China’s Censorship – Bad for China

This article needs to be read in its entirety. It’s one of those where I kept looking for the right grafs to snip, but every one was equally blogworthy. Here’s my choice (but again, read the article, which begins with an eerie description of a once-outspoken blogger whom the state turned into an android-like jellyfish capable only of reciting Party talking points).

In today’s world, the effort to corral 1.3 billion Chinese and to sharply restrict their freedom of expression is a fool’s game. The best that can be said about it is that it is an enormous waste of energy. The worst is that the increasingly desperate efforts of censors are deeply harmful to China itself, not because they are a setback to any American pipe dream that China will become Westernized through the magic of capitalism, but harmful to China in an absolute sense, in the country’s own terms. By now almost everyone knows the theory that like many places before it, as China grows richer and per capita incomes rise, its citizens will demand a greater say in how they are governed, including first of all the freedom to speak and associate freely.

Nobody knows how or even whether this theory will be borne out, as it already has in countries all around China’s perimeter, like South Korea and Taiwan. What can safely be said is that in China a lively frontier of social and intellectual ferment that foreshadows the direction of the society as a whole is presently occupied by journalists and other kinds of commentators in the new media, and their numbers only stand to grow.

I still have powerful memories from the discovery as a child of the tyranny of literacy. Riding in the back of the family car on trips, once I had learned how to I found there was no way to avoid reading billboards and road signs that popped into view.

In the end, Beijing will not prove any more capable of stopping people from thinking and communicating their thoughts in real time about matters that are important to them, especially not in the age of the Internet. One small caveat: if somehow they can, they’ll destroy the country in the process, and gut much of the breathtaking progress made here in the last generation. Smart and talented people will always prefer to live in and wager their futures on places where they can think and speak freely. But just because emigration represents the ultimate option to China’s best and brightest, who will always be welcome in the universities and corporate labs and boardrooms of the world, does not mean resistance here will fizzle. For whatever the bad news of the week or month in terms of civil liberties in China, Big Brother is actually already shrinking, and the space for personal expression is expanding — constantly. By the standards of just five years ago, the availability of information and commentary on the Internet here is mind-boggling.


The Discussion: 2 Comments

Interesting ideas. Great article – thanks.

January 13, 2006 @ 6:47 am | Comment

pls see Nonviolent Resistance for the opposite point of view:!1plke0ePVdFBdO0ie_eGo5Gw!655.entry

January 13, 2006 @ 8:21 pm | Comment

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URL

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.