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Oh, China! (and the internet)

September 24, 2009
Pakistan, land of freedom?  Keep reading to find out more...

Pakistan, land of freedom? Keep reading to find out more... Photo by Matthew Reichel

In Chinese culture, there exists a notion that there is one correct way to do everything.    Its political structure follows strict hierarchy.  Its society values uniformity of thought (I would know–when I taught in a Taiwanese public school, it was my job to enforce this mass mentality).    The PRC government has done an effective job convincing the majority of its citizens that China is one country with 56 minorities–a kind of ethnic Disney world where everyone is part of one happy nation.   Ask your average Han Chinese what they think of Tibetan freedom, and they’ll tell you Tibet is part of China, end of story.   The idea that Tibet would want its sovereignty seems absurd to them.  As far as they’re concerned, the People’s Liberation Army saved the Tibetans from their “backwards” ways and brought them modernization and progress and the Tibetans are ungrateful for trying to bite the hand that feeds.

The things we celebrate about the internet–the ability to express our intent through search, the fact that we “have access to and can share ideas with the greatest minds of our time” and the diversity of information available at our fingertips–are the very aspects of our networked world that threaten the stability of Chinese political culture.  I like to think about the potential effect of the internet in China in terms of Chris Anderson’s “The Long Tail” graph, except the area under the curve is media power instead of revenue.  Xinhua news agency and CCTV, the media mouthpieces of the CCP, own the area under the head of the curve, while China’s netizens theoretically own the area under the tail.

China, however, has gone to great lengths to maintain their grip on media power and prevent Chinese citizens from taking their piece of the pie.   By September 1996, the Great Chinese Firewall already prevented Chinese internet users from accessing an estimated 100 websites.  In 2005 they required Google to comply with their internet censorship laws in order to launch http://www.google.cn.  But technology keeps changing and becoming more immediate and the Chinese government must continue adjusting their filtering services to keep up with the times.  The other day, my friend posted the following message on facebook:

Jonathan ‘Jono’ Warren Internet and international calls are blocked in Xinjiang, China. I never thought I’d say this, but I had to go to Pakistan to get some freedom. (I’m in Pakistan.)

September 18 at 5:37am · Comment ·

Jonathan 'Jono' Warren

Jonathan ‘Jono’ Warren Internet and international calls are blocked in Xinjiang, China. I never thought I’d say this, but I had to go to Pakistan to get some freedom. (I’m in Pakistan.)

September 18 at 5:37am · Comment ·

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