Censorship in China

Yes, we all know most people in China don’t mind the censorship. It’s true. Well, some do, but they look at it more as a nuisance rather than something worth fighting for. There’s the unspoken but well-understood agreement between the people and their leaders that for the sake of harmony, political expression will be controlled (sometimes violently), balanced by a relaxation of the long-time communist control of personal freedoms. And that placates just about everybody. You can’t, after all, have everything.

One great Chinese blogger, however, has always seen CCP censorship as the noose asphyxiating China’s brain cells. And after a brief respite, the noose since 2005 has only gotten tighter. Read this wonderful post about how Michael Anti views censorship in China, and why he thinks today’s generation of young Chinese is more willing to accept it than those who grew up in the echoes of Tiananmen Square’s gunfire.

Via eswn.

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Richard Burger is the author of Behind the Red Door: Sex in China, an exploration of China's sexual revolution and its clash with traditional Chinese values.

The Discussion: 26 Comments

“”"”"There’s the unspoken but well-understood agreement between the people and their leaders that for the sake of harmony, political expression will be controlled (sometimes violently)”"”"”"

‘well understood’??? Yeah they understand well that crushing people and their minds results in harmony??? More like they are coned Richard.

November 30, 2007 @ 3:19 pm | Comment

What better way to drive the point home than with tanks and machine guns?

Look, like it or not there is a tacit agreement, as Michael Anti says – we’ll let you do your own thing as long as you shut up about political freedom. It’s a deal made with the devil and it’s vile, and that’s what this post is all about. There is also an understanding that if you don’t accept this agreement – if you want to write about democracy on the Internet or throw paint on Mao’s portrait – they will do whatever is necessary to shut you up. If it’s not just you – if it’s an entire movement, like thousands of students or cult members – they will mow you down with tanks and bullets. Most people, understandably, have chosen to accept the pact with the devil. The deal is further sweetened with increasing economic freedom, further pacifying a generally grateful citizenry (with some significant and hideous exceptions).

November 30, 2007 @ 4:23 pm | Comment

This Michael Anti is quite arrogant by calling his fellow journalists sutpid. There is an obvious distrust between the school-educated journalists and self-educated ones. People are worked hard to get around the cencorship, as far as I know. There are numerous requests about how to use proxy everyday—to get porn.

November 30, 2007 @ 11:55 pm | Comment

how would you suggest fighting it?

December 1, 2007 @ 1:45 am | Comment

“The guy who censored my blog – we’re friends.”

“The public face of internet censorship is very professional: But inside, the censors are very liberal,”

“it’s easy to make decisions that would be “morally clean in Congress”, but would have disastrous impacts on China. – the right strategy is to let the Chinese people solve these problems for themselves.”

Is Anti trying to say to half witted outsiders and non-elites to “butt out!” ?

December 1, 2007 @ 7:59 am | Comment

“”"Look, like it or not there is a tacit agreement, as Michael Anti says – we’ll let you do your own thing as long as you shut up about political freedom.”"”"”

“we’ll let you do your own thing”???, do you really buy that Richard? Do you really think that is whats going on in China, ‘we’ll let you do your own thing’?

“As long as you shut up about political freedom”? What do you mean by that? Does that include all civil liberties? Does it include whatever the party says it includes (yes)? If it were just that people could not get into political stuff, no one would care, do you really think all those disgruntled China people are pissed cause they really wanna participate in politics? No, of course not, they feel wronged on all accounts, they feel cheated and treated like shit. It’s called basic human rights, not politics.

Its more like, if you dont demand an basic dignity, we will be more than happy to make use of you and brainwash you to become a fat tool. and if you want to have human dignity and not be treated like a rat in a cage, we will torture you to death and use that as an example for all the others, and of course if you are the one who agrees to live like a rat in a cage and you arent tortured to death and you can eat up some money, well, you are grateful to the party, AHHHH its so gross!!

You may think that there is only a small minority who are not ‘grateful’ to the party but I think thats not right, I think there are a lot more than you think who are wishing for a big change for China’s good.

December 1, 2007 @ 2:12 pm | Comment

Snow, few blogs out there have been as vocal as mine in their criticism of the CCP’s barbaric treatment of its “enemies,” like the FLG. And there is certainly a lot of brainwashing in regard to Taiwan and Japan and Tibet. But the fact remains many, many Chinese people are either disinterested in politics or happy enough with the current situation as long as they have the freedom to make money and improve the quality of their lives. We know the atrocities, the stories of slave labor, the government’s involvement in creating the AIDS epidemic and covering up the SARS outbreak. And still most of the people shrug it off because they feel their situation is better than it was 20 years ago.

This apathetic attitude toward censorship will shift as people become richer and more informed, but I think it will be a painfully slow process, especially while the economy is doing so well. While I wish this weren’t the case, and while I wish there would be more outrage in China against government brutality and injustice, there is no denying that the aforementioned pact exists and that the majority are okay with it. If that were not the case, we’d be seeing the signs of discontent that recently set off storms in Myanmar and Pakistan. Most Chinese people wouldn’t consider even for an instant stopping what they are doing to march against the government as did the Buddhist monks in Rangoon, or their aunts and uncles and parents in 1989. They would lose out on valuable time that could be spent making money. The government knows its people well, knows what their priorities are, and they’ve all agreed on a quid pro quo that results in that somewhat surreal state they call “harmony,” and anything that threatens this harmony will be snuffed out like a mosquito, crushed and destroyed. Do I like this? Hell, no. Is that the way it is? Yeah, afraid so. Is it going to change anytime soon? Nope. Sorry. But still, I’ll call them on it and blog about it because that’s the way I am.

December 1, 2007 @ 2:40 pm | Comment

“Most Chinese people wouldn’t consider even for an instant stopping what they are doing to march against the government … They would lose out on valuable time that could be spent making money. …they’ve all agreed on a quid pro quo”

Right on the moola, Richard.

December 1, 2007 @ 7:49 pm | Comment

While foreigners may whine and moan about the censorship, the companies they work for (and whose foreign pay scales support privileged lifestyles) support the Chinese gov’ts censorship.

Likewise, all of those comfy Chinese techies, managers and execs at Chinese and foreign companies who don’t like censorship in fact support it as hard working employees.

That stick hitting you on the head is one of your own making.

And that includes you Richard.

December 2, 2007 @ 7:50 am | Comment

nanheyangrouchuan,

Are you suggesting everybody be a bum like you and write trash all day & everyday? Feel that red hot sizzling skewer up your mutton rump?

December 2, 2007 @ 8:33 am | Comment

“Being forced to work, and forced to do your best, will breed in you temperance and self-control, diligence and strength of will, cheerfulness and content, and a hundred virtues which the idle will never know.”
–Charles Kingsley

December 2, 2007 @ 8:51 am | Comment

I dont think nanhey is saying that work is not good. I mean, of course thats not what he was saying…

He was saying something about western companies contribution to the regimes tactics, censorship for one.

I think it would be interesting to know what people think about our contributions to the regime and how we can work hard, have a fine income and still not contribute to the regime in the least.

December 2, 2007 @ 9:20 am | Comment

A buddy of mine in BC just sent me this cut&pasted piece of dialog, he said from some chat room….Holy Mother of god! This has got to be one of the funniest twisted (also very disturbing) insights I’ve ever read for a long while…!

Excerpt:

“Y’all need to just leave China fer good and let ‘em chineese deal with their own sh*t, man! Cum’on, bros, don’t waist your time and anergy serving ‘em commeese. We free people odd to stik togather right? Our presidant needs us. Hell our democrecy needs us. America needs us to protact our freedom and liberty worldwide. I’m done talking here… lock and load….time to rock and roll dudes!!!!! J.T.Clifford, age 26. Status: married/father. Religion: Christianity ”

I wonder if he is in the army — god help us if he is.

December 2, 2007 @ 9:59 am | Comment

While foreigners may whine and moan about the censorship, the companies they work for (and whose foreign pay scales support privileged lifestyles) support the Chinese gov’ts censorship.

Likewise, all of those comfy Chinese techies, managers and execs at Chinese and foreign companies who don’t like censorship in fact support it as hard working employees.

That stick hitting you on the head is one of your own making.

And that includes you Richard.

Haha, so true. Just like I always find it amazing it is a big no no for expats in US to criticize US while it seems okay for expats in China to criticize China because it is the American way. No, it is not, hypocrites.

December 2, 2007 @ 10:23 am | Comment

So, Arty, Nanhe, et. al., what should we expats in China do? Should we stop our work? Should we throw Molotov cocktails at members of the government most people here are relatively happy with considering the trauma, death and universal misery of the Mao tragedy? Should we leave? I try to write about the evils of censorship and discuss it and generate a dialogue about it. I admit, that isn’t much and it’s doubtful my little posts will end the tyranny and the stupidity of China’s censorship policies. But seriously, what would satisfy you?

December 2, 2007 @ 11:53 am | Comment

@Arty

“while it seems okay for expats in China to criticize China because it is the American way. No, it is not, hypocrites.”

How many times have I or you heard “go back to china/Mexico/Canada/England/India etc” while in America? Or you guys from (fill in the blank)are brainwashed/pussies/short/stupid/robots etc.?
Or “I’m glad you don’t spit/slurp/like western food/you are not like ordinary Chinese or Did you grow up in the States, China town perhaps?”?

And you cry racism overseas? You Hypocrites! (Of course not all Americans are like that.)

December 2, 2007 @ 11:56 am | Comment

Richard,

You are doing a fine job….balanced as far as I can tell. I must admit it is sometimes hard to keep our cool when prejudices are splashed across the blog by people like Nanhe.

Peace.

December 2, 2007 @ 12:04 pm | Comment

I Believe the China’s Media Censorship Is the Fault of China’s Critics

There’s a large overseas “democracy” activist movement against the Chinese government, developed after the 1989 political incident. Even though the movement lost much momentum and force in the last 5 years largely due to china’s economic growth and West’s acceptance of China, it is still a “nagging” force and sometimes provides annoyance to the Chinese government.

Of course, one main idea of the movement is to criticize the Chinese gov’t and paint it as a evil monster capable of only doing evil things. And one of their main argument is that China lacks a free press and practices censorship.
This post attempts to claim that China’s lack of free press can actually be blamed on those democracy activists.

We know that democracy activists spread and exaggerate bad news on the Chinese gov’t, sometimes they revise Chinese history to amplify those bad news. Like how Mao Zedong was a monster, how 3 billion people died under Mao, etc etc. In fact, for any humanly imaginable crime, they can put it under the Chinese gov’t's tab.

Of course efforts at spreading and amplifying those news are very harmful to the Chinese Communist Party. Some say that those activists are very stupid, I disagree, I think they are very smart and capable, and I think they actually may succeed some day to collapse the Chinese gov’t. That is, it is possible to collapse a gov’t through injection of harmful information, instead of using nuclear weapons, the USSR was one such example of collapse.

In my eyes, the Chinese Communist Party is like a child, and those overseas activists are like the parent. Whenever a child does something wrong, the parent very sternly scolds the child and sometimes even spank the child’s buttocks with very heavy force. As a result, the child becomes very scared of punishment and being scolded.

Now anyone with children know that if you have a policy of “severe punishment and scolding” toward your children, your children will be driven to lie. For example, if a child accidentally broke a vase, or received an F on his test, if he knows that you’ll treat him very nicely and say to him “it’s ok that you broke the vase or received an F, just do better next time”, then your child would not be too worried about it. But if you often scold him very severely or beat him on the buttocks, then he’ll inevitably try to hide the broken vase or his school report from you, and keep you from finding out, because he is too afraid of your yelling at him.

So, the Chinese gov’t, trying to avoid being scolded, inevitably tries to control the press, tries to not let you find something to yell at them, and so things like corruption, SARS, worker strikes, etc. will not receive enough coverage, and it’ll develop into a habitual mentality for them to hide those information.

So who should be responsible for that? I remember when I go to my child’s “parent-teacher” conference, my child’s teacher always tells me “the child is not wrong, you should take responsibility”. So clearly I believe the overseas democracy activists should take responsibility for China’s lack of press freedom.

If if the owner of this blog finds his site blocked by the Chinese gov’t, I think you should blame it on certain writers on this blog that always criticize China.

December 2, 2007 @ 12:11 pm | Comment

very good article indeed. censorship is a big problem in china that is not going to end any time soon

December 2, 2007 @ 5:08 pm | Comment

Brilliant, Math. As we all know, there was never any censorship under Mao, and it only started after 1989. And I’m not worried about the CCP ever shutting down this site. Haven’t you been reading the comments? I’m just another one of their useful idiots.

December 2, 2007 @ 5:14 pm | Comment

I’m confused, Math. I thought the Chinese people are the children and the Chinese government and the party are the parents who, since the days of Mao Zedong, have shifted the focus of their educational strategy from brutal physical torture to more subtle methods of child abuse. Brute force is still used, but not as often as in the old days. Anyway, in a civilized society (which the PRC is not, but wants to be) all kinds of child abuse should be banned.
Now to the age-old argument that most Chinese people don’t care too much about the problem of censorship and it’s only a pet peeve of troublesome, patronizing Westerners:
That may be. The problem is that arrogant European bastards like me can see the effects censorship and propaganda have on the people they love, every single day, and it does hurt.
There are many alcoholics and smokers who don’t consider their addiction a big problem and still their family and friends try to make them stop.
If you have ever made the experience to hear your own children spit out the same nationalist, racist, rabble-rousing hogwash that you have been fighting against for most of your life, then you will know that censorship and propaganda are big problems.
Fighting censorship is not just about being able to read your favorite newspaper or watching your favorite movie. Access to information can be a question of life and death. Anybody remember SARS? Oh, right, that was almost four years ago and people in China have short memories.

December 2, 2007 @ 10:13 pm | Comment

You would think certain people or sources are ‘balanced’ cause they’re so liberal and two sided, but actually what so hot about giving equal benefit to both sides when thats not the reality? Yeah, it may make people feel warm and cozy to say that things are balanced and equal and that theres only grey, no black and white, but actually as I see it, thats how the party wants you to think. Sometimes it baffles me that people know that censorship and the like exist, but they have no idea that it works, that the party does it for a reason and it works. This censorship type stuff creates an environment, it creates a new reality according to how the party wants people to think.

So, I wish people would think about the underlying issues and figure out: what is tha party hiding; why do they hide things; what is their big idea; what are they afraid of…

They dont do it just for the sole purpose of letting people know whos boss, of course thats part of it, but they could do that in other way as well, why all the brainwashing?

Do people see the link (or sameness) between censorship and brainwashing, do you know what the people are brainwashed for, what they are made to think?

If you know these answers, then you might actually care about what the world is facing.

December 2, 2007 @ 11:48 pm | Comment

“So, Arty, Nanhe, et. al., what should we expats in China do? Should we stop our work? ”

You are only there in the first place because local talent is so very scarce. Maybe the expat community can be more participatory and keep their home countries’ intel agencies up to speed with what their employers are doing to help the CCP stay in power and improve the PLA’s war fighting abilities.

If you don’t, you are merely useful idiots of both the CCP and your masters at HQ.

December 3, 2007 @ 4:42 am | Comment

“Are you suggesting everybody be a bum like you and write trash all day & everyday? Feel that red hot sizzling skewer up your mutton rump?

Posted by: youguys at December 2, 2007 08:33 AM”

Most people in the China blogosphere blog more than I do on their respective blogs. And no, I don’t feel your hot skewer, it must be way to small.

December 3, 2007 @ 4:44 am | Comment

“many Chinese people are … disinterested in politics …”

Surely, Richard , that’s a good thing. How heartening that so many Chinese are disinterested, taking a balanced, impartial and non-emotive approach to politics!

Now if they were “uninterested” in politics, that would be depressing.

(Sorry, Richard, for my pedantry. The confusion of “disinterested” with “uninterested” is one of personal cranks.)

December 4, 2007 @ 12:53 pm | Comment

How many times have I or you heard “go back to china/Mexico/Canada/England/India etc” while in America?

That’s exactly my point and it is far worse in the US than in China. Yet Americans are doing it in China, and see there is nothing wrong because China is the evil empire.

So, Arty, Nanhe, et. al., what should we expats in China do? Should we stop our work? Should we throw Molotov cocktails at members of the government most people here are relatively happy with considering the trauma, death and universal misery of the Mao tragedy?

I don’t know. I am simply state a fact that we Americans are hypocrites. I have no problem with you blogging because that will make me a hypocrite, isn’t it.

December 4, 2007 @ 1:55 pm | Comment

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