CCP’s apoplectic stance toward the media

It’s good to see China’s Netizens making fun of their dinosaur leaders as they continue their desperate, artery-popping quest to seal off communications, as though they can just make the Internet go away. We all know it’s an uphill, losing battle, but still they press on. They may as well be chasing windmills.

Hours after the government announced new regulations tightening Beijing’s grip over foreign news agencies this week, Chinese Internet users went on a tirade.

“Dear officials,” said one anonymous posting on Netease, a popular web portal. “Since modern technology is so advanced, why don’t you invent some pills which people can take and lose their ability to think? Then you’ll have nothing to worry about.”

Similar outbursts have followed the release of rules aimed at tightening the state’s grip over books, the Internet, magazines, karaoke, broadcasting, video games, satellite dishes and even children’s cartoons.

With every passing year, Chinese increasingly expect freer information from varied sources with less government spin, to the consternation of a ruling Communist Party long reliant on an information monopoly to bolster its political monopoly.

The growing appreciation among young Chinese for unfettered news — and their ability to convey those opinions rapidly across cyberspace — is a key reason why Beijing will ultimately lose the information war, analysts say, even if it wins some near-term battles.

“The fact that Chinese officials are trying harder and harder means they’re actually having less and less control,” said Xiao Qiang, director of the China Internet Project at the University of California, Berkeley, journalism school. “Between now and the Olympics, it will continue to weaken. They’re fighting a losing game.”

So the question is, why do they bother? It only makes them look senile and calcified, and any short-term successes will, as the article says, be wiped out by their inevitable final defeat. No matter; it’s a fight to the death, and instead of embracing reform and striving to use the technology to their better advantage, they can only swing their fists in the dark as they struggle to hold onto the total control that the Internet has made obsolete. Give it up, ye Chinese censors.

The Discussion: 11 Comments

But Richard, once that nasty ole’ Shanghai gang has finally been purged completely, Chairman Hu will usher in a new era of freedom and light!

September 19, 2006 @ 2:10 am | Comment

Lisa,

I still think it is a little too early to tell what Hu really feels about the issue of freedom of speech. In fact, I think there are a lot of indirect evidences that Hu is NOT the one behind the crackdown.

For example, try searching for “打倒胡锦涛” (down with Hu Jintao) on a Chinese search engine like baidu.com or sogou.com. Then try searching for “打倒江泽民” (down with Jiang Zemin). See the difference in what happens?

September 19, 2006 @ 3:26 am | Comment

My dears, they understand perfectly well what Bob Marley said: you can fool some people some of the time, but you can’t fool all of the people all of the time.

A certain portion of China’s population, including the intelligent posters referred to above, has access to travel, or at least has friends who do, or has friends in the administration, or is in the administration, or is otherwise well-read.

That’s not the part of the population they’re worried about. They’re worried about maintaining certain fictions vis-a-vis the rest. Quite a lot of fictions, but quite vague ones.

September 19, 2006 @ 4:12 am | Comment

I think I’ve read enough by now to conclude Hu is either a direct source of the media crackdown or at the very least a willing partner in crime. These edicts have come fast and furious since he took office, and while they may not come directly from his pen, they almost certainly have his blessing.

September 19, 2006 @ 4:26 am | Comment

I can’t help feel that Richard is right. If you compare the styles of Wen Jiabao and Hu, it’s clear which one is at least somewhat in tune with how to work the media. Wen’s not going to magically morph into John F. Kenne-huang-di anytime soon, but he’s good in front of the camera. Hu’s always been a backroom kind of guy. Those kind of smoke-filled room decision makers, in China as elsewhere, are the most suspicious of the media and seek to control information the most.

September 19, 2006 @ 3:13 pm | Comment

Why do they do this? Well I’ve suggested at my humble home that the restrictions are due to an alignment of preferred public policy of CCP control freak sentiment with the politically-connected monopoly business interests.

As for why the CCP control freaks don’t give up, I don’t think they see the internet as an inevitable loss. They are merely at a stage of a long-running Spy vs Spy comic where the white spy has the technological advantage and they are sure that they, the black spy, will create a new gadget to give them the technological advantage in the next comic.

Once they give up the Spy vs Spy game, there will be a seachange of the glasnost/perestroika kind.

September 19, 2006 @ 9:18 pm | Comment

I think we’re already seeing something of a sea change as blogs and forums continue to confound the censors and make censorship increasingly impractical. Oh, they will try to suppress the unwanted criticism and some will pay dearly for daring to cross the party. but since it really is in many ways a sea change, there’s little ultimately that they can do – you can’t stop the seas with a bucket. So I have to predict we’ll be seeing more breakdowns in the attempts to censor, followed by more crackdowns on the “cyberdissidents” in a vicious circle which, over time, will see the free speech advocates prevail. You can’t get this genie back into the bottle, not with the Internet providing such a fat pipeline into people’s minds. There’ll be a lot of ugly stories along the way, but that’s my predicition for how this story will play out.

September 19, 2006 @ 9:41 pm | Comment

If only all blogs could be elevated to the level of ‘quacking canards’

September 19, 2006 @ 10:30 pm | Comment

Hui Mao, I really, truly would like to believe that you’re right. And I reserved judgment for a long time. But, I dunno…Hu praises North Korea for its “social stability.”

Maybe Premier Wen will save us. ๐Ÿ˜‰

September 19, 2006 @ 11:43 pm | Comment

Richard, the problem of your analogy of seas and buckets is that the internet is tubes. Well, pipes. Pipes all owned and operated by the state. Pipes connected to filtering routers, all owned and operated by the state.

Brief back and forth with Fons at China Herald suggests to me that the current limitation on further filtering is that the routers and boxes handling the filtering are too slow currently. That implementing a full filter like the CCP wants would bring the internet to a crawl, which would piss off all of the games players and business people waiting for their data exclusively from Xinhua Financial Information Services. But in the Spy vs. Spy matchup, faster processors and more efficient filtering mechanisms are always just down the road.

The CCP may kill a few chickens to scare the monkeys in the meantime, but when the whole infrastructure is state owned, I have my doubts about free speech advocates winning a match on the internet, because their opponents own and operate it.

September 20, 2006 @ 2:45 am | Comment

Tom, you may well be right, and I often wonder just how far the CCP might go in order to stem the flow of online information. But it does seem that there are enough ways to get around the Great Firewall so as to keep the censorship efforts stymied. Try as they might, the efforts to block information simply aren’t working. The Rui’an incident was the latest example, and I think we’ll be seeing lots more.

September 20, 2006 @ 2:56 am | Comment

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