On Wikipedia’s resurrection in China

Yes, it’s back, in a censored and manipulated fashion. It’s another of those totally ineplicable see-saw stories, where one day a site or an entire hosting service, like blogspot or typepad, is banned one day, available the next, then banned again.

The main page of the Chinese-language version of Wikipedia (zh.wikipedia.org) could be displayed and searches for apolitical terms turned up results, but searches for subjects taboo to China’s Communist leadership, such as “June 4”, remained blocked.

June 4, 1989, was the date that China’s military crushed a student-led movement for political change centered on Beijing’s Tiananmen Square, killing hundreds and possibly thousands. The incident remains among the most sensitive subjects for the country’s state-controlled media.

China routinely blocks access to Web sites it deems subversive and filters Internet pages for sensitive words. It was unclear why Wikipedia, blocked since October 2005, was again accessible. A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman said she had not heard of reports regarding Wikipedia, but added that China supports the development of the Internet and now has 123 million users, making it the world’s second-largest Internet market.

“We manage the Internet according to our laws and regulations. This is the usual practice for all the countries in the world,” spokeswoman Jiang Yu told a news conference.

Finally, a Chinese spokesperson who is well media trained. We call this “bridging” – where you briefly note the reporter’s accusation in a way that gets you off the hook (“I hadn’t heard Wikipedia was unavailable”) and then turn it around by stressing the good stuff (“…but we now have a zillion Internet users and they’re all very happy”). Well done.

Anyway, as the article goes on to point out toward the end, in the eyes of the leathery CCP leaders the whole danger of Wikipedia, as with many blogs, is its ability to create a “hive” thanks to readers’ ability to interact and participate. And once you have a meeting place where people can speak out, you have a potential tool for mobilization, which always scares the party shitless. Reporters without Borders says the lifting of the ban was purely pragmatic – banning it sent a bad signal to foreign companies dealing with China. It was a business decision.

Who knows?

The Discussion: 15 Comments

Wikipedia seems to be blocked again as of today though. Try it.

November 17, 2006 @ 12:42 pm | Comment

Funny. Didn’t they make a public statement awhile back saying they would never bow to the Censors in China?

November 17, 2006 @ 12:53 pm | Comment

@Meursault: Yep, same here in Suzhou. English and Chinese – both blocked.

November 17, 2006 @ 1:17 pm | Comment

it is blocked again indeed, although all the information from the site is available through http://www.answers.com which has been working for the year and a bit that I’ve been living here, and doesn’t seem to have any keyword search issues.

November 17, 2006 @ 3:57 pm | Comment

THM,

I’m just guessing on this, but I don’t think Wikipedia is censoring itself, but rather, China is just blocking the political articles. It’s like being able to access english BBC, but not the Chinese version, and it’s beyond BBC’s control.

November 17, 2006 @ 3:58 pm | Comment

Inaccessible again from Shanghai, as well. ๐Ÿ™

November 17, 2006 @ 4:24 pm | Comment

Goddammit, Richard, it was working until you blogged about it.

November 17, 2006 @ 4:51 pm | Comment

Why are u so obssessed to get access to June 4 stuff in China??? You wanna remind yourself or something?

November 17, 2006 @ 5:12 pm | Comment

Whatever drives the decisions of the almighty nanny, is nothing we simple human beings could hope to understand. We should not question, or try to understand it’s ways anyway but only humbly praise it’s wisdom.

And after doing so perhaps read the inspiring article “Digital Maoism:
The Hazards of the New Online Collectivism” by Jaron Lanier about Wikipedia, the basic problems and limitations of itโ€™s concept and why it isnโ€™t a good idea to use the concept too incautious: http://tinyurl.com/mjfsa

November 17, 2006 @ 5:41 pm | Comment

Anybody know any good proxies that work for the Chinese wikipedia?

November 17, 2006 @ 6:32 pm | Comment

To anyone who works for Nanny: I hope the next shit you take will be a hedgehog.

November 17, 2006 @ 8:23 pm | Comment

NPR.org is suddenly blocked too. I NEVER had a problem with them before.

November 18, 2006 @ 3:53 pm | Comment

You cannot blame China for being so suspicious of western media. That’s because\
For the past few decades, western media has been spinning too many lies about China. Read these:

http://tinyurl.com/ylnyxq

http://tinyurl.com/yfu7mt

http://tinyurl.com/ye4sur

November 19, 2006 @ 5:30 pm | Comment

Thanks for those tired, worthless links, John Koh. There are many, many Western media that give all types of different interpretations of China. Some are beter than others. Compare the level of consistent truth-telling by the media in the West compared with that of China. But I don’t think that’s something you’d like to seriously explore, is it?

November 19, 2006 @ 5:51 pm | Comment

@Richard:

Interesting read.

Thanks,
Ames Tiedeman

November 20, 2006 @ 9:04 am | Comment

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