Open thread: Chinese censorship

2017-09-08

in Internet matters, Language, Law, Politics, Writing

One mechanism of control used by the Chinese government is censorship of the media and the internet. Reportedly, this has been so comprehensive and successful that young people in China are unlikely to know about the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989.

This is an important example of how governments are often the biggest threat to internet users.

The Economist recently reported on government manipulation of Chinese television, as well as on academic publishing.

All this is relevant in part because of how China is a rising power but not a free society, as well as because of what it reveals about how the Chinese Communist Party maintains popular legitimacy and control.

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. September 16, 2017 at 4:57 pm

Despite censorship, China has some cool bookshops

The government is ambivalent about them

IN AN underground railway station below the main public library in Shanghai is a spacious bookshop called Jifeng. It is one of the city’s most respected, but its days are numbered. A display inside the entrance shows how many of them remain before the shop closes—147 as of September 6th. The authorities, it seems, have had enough of its open-minded selection of works and the talks it hosts on controversial topics.

That, too, may test local officials’ tolerance. Like Jifeng, Commune tries to attract customers by organising talks—though not always as edgy as Jifeng’s. Speakers over the past year have included the Chinese translator of Umberto Eco’s novel, “Numero Zero”, which satirises politicians and the media; and a film director, Jia Zhangke, whose movies about the social costs of China’s boom sometimes rile the censors.

But companies like Commune are careful not to provoke the authorities too blatantly. They obtain books published abroad from a state-owned distributor, the China National Publications Import and Export Corporation (its motto: “Opening, Harmonising, Innovating, Advancing”), which prohibits anything critical of the Communist Party. “There’s nothing we can do about it,” Ms Cheng says.

In Shanghai, in a quiet side-street close to Jifeng, is a café called 1984 that looks much like a trendy bookshop (pictured, above). Its entrance hall is lined with different editions of George Orwell’s dystopian novel. But its owners are canny. “None of the books in this shop is for sale,” says a sign inside.

. November 8, 2017 at 10:38 am

Managing the Message

What you can’t say about the 19th National Communist Party Congress on WeChat

WeChat censored keywords related to the 19th National Communist Party Congress over a year prior to the event and updated blocked content as the event approached.

Surprisingly, we found that even neutral references to official party policies and ideology were blocked in addition to references to the Congress, party leaders, and power struggles within the Communist Party of China.

. November 14, 2017 at 7:28 pm

China’s internet censors announced new regulations aimed at curbing the spread of “illegal information”. Staff at news websites will be required to undergo training in “the Marxist view of journalism”. Those who fail to promote “a positive and healthy…online culture” face dismissal.

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