Internet Censorship in China

Introduction

The internet has revolutionized the world today in all aspects of life including; social, political, business, and culture. Being the world’s most important innovation in the field of information, the internet has taken over almost all other innovations, and its effects have been felt in all corners of the world. According to DiMaggio “the internet is an exceptional medium given that it integrates various communication modalities and a variety of content, and then combining them into a unilateral medium. In China, however, it has been politicized and certain measures have been in line to block the flow of information from the internet. It is clear to say that anyone who withholds any information from individuals interferes with the right to information and this can only be interpreted as dictatorial on the part of the Chinese government. This, however, has encountered intense scrutiny and resistance from within and without China.

In the current social environment where information is available in abundance and without discrimination as to whom the recipients may be, there is a need for regulation to ensure only the right information is accessible and also to ensure that people are not subject to malicious or immoral information that may trigger unacceptable behavior. The Chinese government has taken such kind of initiative by censoring information transfer through the internet, an action that has affected information in all areas of human interaction including political, social, educational, health, religion and media. Although this may be a legitimate and rational gesture, some limitations are noted especially in relation to restricting the level of knowledge that people should have in the above-mentioned areas. Moreover, the world has moved towards free trade with freedom of information being one of the key drivers to the global economy. Indeed, the data from the Chinese government show that over 250 million people use the internet, the largest number in the world, and therefore it would be difficult, if not impossible to block the websites on an array of sensitive topics. This paper will justify why blocking the websites is not an easy task, as well as discussing and addressing the social, business and political ramifications that arise from the internet censorship policies by the Chinese government.

Overview

Everyone has the right to information, and with information, people have knowledge which means they have power; this is what the government may fear. However, withholding information from people is actually making China lose a lot in the social, business, political and cultural developments that come along with the internet.

The People’s Republic of China’s (PRC) government introduced several laws and administrative regulations that have sixty internet censoring regulations, which have continued to be executed by the provincial local offices of public sector owned internet service providers (ISPs), internet companies and groups. The laws were established to counter many criticisms that were based on anti-Japanese, anti-corruption, and anti-pollution that were being spread against the government through the internet. The government also introduced a police force for the internet which has been estimated to be 30,000 individuals, mandated to keep track of sensitive materials on forums, blogs, and search engines like Sohu and Sina that are erased immediately when detected. They are also responsible for tracking and monitoring the internet access by the public.

Banned phrases and sites

3In their article “Empirical Analysis of Internet Filtering in China” the statistics show that out of the 204,012 available sites, over 50,000 were not accessible in China; these are shocking statistics and clearly indicate the amount of information withheld from the citizens. The authors report that of the blocked sites most included; news, health, entertainment, politics and education. This is where the society builds its base and foundation thus the information is gravely required. The report also identified specific pages that were inaccessible which were dissident/democracy pages, i.e. “democracy and human rights generally and sites specific to China; of the top 100 sites returned by Google in response to a search for ‘democracy china,’ 40 were found to be blocked, while 37 ‘dissident china’ sites were blocked, 32 were blocked for ‘freedom china,’ and 30 for ‘justice china’”.

Health sites blocked were pages from china involving hunger, famine, AIDS, diseases and sex, as well as pages on AIDS healthcare foundation, internal mental health and health in China; this withholds very crucial information on the spread, statistics, dos and don’ts in matters relating to diseases for the Chinese. In the education domain, the sites never allowed pages from the higher education institutions in the foreign markets such as Caltech, Columbia and Virginia, as well as learning channels, Islamic schools pages and a variety of secondary and primary schools.

In the news, many of the foreign news sites such as the BBC News, CNN and Times Magazine among others were not spared either and thus could not be accessed; while various government sites more so those operated by governments in Asia and beyond; and specifically Taiwan and Tibet were blocked in order to hinder the transfer of information that the government viewed as unhealthy to its political stability. Moreover, information withdrawn from the citizens includes that from the US and UK courts and the military. The Taiwanese and Tibetan sites mainly blocked were those involving business and non-commercial sites. The consequence of this blockage is locking out the citizens from any business links from these countries. The entertainment sector has several movies sites blocked including the Taiwanese page of MTV leaving the citizens without any information from these sites.

The religion sector was not as well left behind with most Christian sites such as “the Asian American Baptist Church, the Atheist Network, and the Catholic Civil Rights League” among others censored and delinked from the public.

The government has also banned a list of words and phrases that appear on the internet including; Chinese communist party or the ruling government, puppet government, dictatorship, human rights in China, freedom of expression, organs sales, cheating in exams, and forgery making bombs, words that lead to brainwashing, military, sex and gambling. Searching such materials is illegal and is subject to punishment by law.

The sites that are blocked are ranged from all sectors from media to blogs, forums, political organizations sites, and non-governmental organizations. In the media the New York Times, Huffington Post, Hong Kong Economic Journal, the Local, Deutsche Welle, NTDTV, Wired.com among others.

Social sites that are blocked include Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, Tripod, Wretch, Plurk among others. The search engines are also blocked which include; Google, Hotmails services, Yahoo, metacafe.com dailymotion.com, Imageshack among others. As if this is not enough, several non-governmental organizations sites are inaccessible in China such as Amnesty International, human rights watch, Reporters without borders, WikiLeaks, and falun gong. Political organizations such as the central Tibetan administration and the Hong Kong Alliance in support of patriotic democratic movements in China and the East Turkistan information center are inaccessible. iTunes which offers downloaded music was also censored in 2008. This censoring has made the lives of the Chinese people be limited in terms of information and has several results.

Network control by PRC

The government first restricts access by issuing physical networks control, mainly through the network architects, and this involves controlling what information flow and the profits gained from the information. This applies to all sectors including the public (government) and private sectors. Secondly, they control the network content flow that includes using those who post and launch information to the sites. This is ensured through political content limits to the sites and the no competition rule for other government sites of the web views. This will also involve the users’ need for the information and the effects it has on the social patterns and the government’s control of the people once they get the information.

Thirdly, the foreign influence on the available networks is analyzed. This means that the foreign contacts with the Chinese citizens are monitored to avoid any foreign interference. Their future reactions in regard to the materials on the web are also analyzed so as to be censored. With China having the largest population of internet users then censoring information is limiting information to a large number of people.

The golden shield project

The golden shield project is a product of the Ministry of Public Security of the People’s Republic of China initiated in 1998. Its goal and mandate are to initiate a system that would regulate the type of data that is passed to the citizens, also called the “great firewall of China”. It blocks the outsiders and gives limited information to the users. This has been a great nightmare for the Chinese citizens who would like to advance socially, economically, and politically through the internet.

Importance of the internet

Without this information, the Chinese lose out on major developments in all the fields. Generally, the internet is useful in communication; other people can know what one offers and likes in a comprehensive way than phones and letters or print media. When people search for materials on the internet, it is easy to establish whatever they want but with blocked sites it becomes impossible. The internet is also used for faster access, given that emails are faster than letters and more comprehensive. This helps to speed up the communication process.

The net is also used for customer services web chats can be effective places to clarify issues that are not clear and even communicate easily, in addition to being used for research. Whatever one wants to know in all topics then it is possible to find it. All topics including; culture, lifestyles, education, entertainment, business, politics, and health can be found on the internet, ensuring that there is clear information, credibility, more knowledge and exposure, and accurate information on the topics.

Social ramifications

The internet lowers the cost of information and makes people able to get information on important links such as jobs opportunities; this enables people to gain human capital and be competitive and better their lives. This may be impossible in China with the social sites being blocked. This also creates inequality in the Chinese community and consequently low incomes that may bring poverty. The most evident result is the creation of a digital divide in terms of the Chinese ability to find jobs, education, organizational information, engage in political talks and social networks. The article “the social implications of the internet” expresses inequality on the basis of accessibility of the internet, usability, strategies used in the search for knowledge and difference in the quality of connectivity, as well as differences in the mode of usage.

The main problem involved is that the people without the information cannot change their socio-economic conditions. This will lead to people being separated or divided so that the government can continue to rule hence creating a huge gap. Moreover, the internet systems give social support, friendship, a sense of being in the right place within the social community though the people are not around. This social network does not need a huge investment in time, money, and energy but it gives emotional support that enables individuals to be satisfied. With this support, individuals have enough motivation to work and live on with expectation, thus the tendency by the government to restrict this is dictatorial.

The network also enhances relationships that may be specialized and multiplex. Although the societies may be virtual, the relationships may be brought to real life thus promoting intercultural relations that bring harmony and understanding within the communities. This is because the relationship starts as secondary with no intimacy but with time, it develops to be a mutual understanding hence being personal and in many instances, intimate. This is already blocked in China due to the inaccessibility of social sites.

The people are also left out of useful information regarding education, health, religion and news. Without news of what is happening in other parts of the world and what happening around them, the individuals are always never updated and will likely be puppets of the PPC regime. In health matters, outbreaks can wipe out millions since the information cannot spread fast. The knowledge on where to get help for chronic diseases is also limited and given that most people cannot access several procedures for first aids from different hospitals, their health tends to be at stake. They are only left to develop their only known methods thus they remain backward in new technologies from other countries, which can be accessed from the sites that are blocked.

In education, the people of China can only study in their local institutions. The new technology of online studies that have developed from the US have been left out and even the institutions that they can go to for further studies abroad are restricted. They comply with their own local institutions with old syllabuses that are less competitive in the world. The limitation of study of the new technologies limits the prospects of their future despite the fact that education is the key to success. In addition, recent research in all fields is not available hence making them not further their knowledge and be scholars. Their access to foreign languages is also limited meaning that the Chinese will have problems communicating with the rest of the world effectively; without communication then there is no socio-economic development.

The censoring of religious materials by the government inhibits peoples’ beliefs and value systems in matters of religion. They cannot be able to judge the truth themselves and are blocked from deciding which gospel is true and right to be followed. The government fears that religions that are interpreted as radical may be introduced in China through the internet and ruin the stronghold of power through resistance and revolts.

The internet has changed many societies throughout the world. Social sites like Twitter and Facebook have dominated people’s minds, with the exchange of ideas being enhanced. Indeed, many people join these groups for social growth and development. Such sites have been blocked in China meaning that the citizens can not get in touch with the outside world; thus they can only know what’s around them but not in the world-at-large. Basically, the social part can be visualized in five ways which are through inequality, community and social capital, political activities and involvement, organization and economic situations, cultural involvement, and cultural multiplicity.

The Chinese citizens are restricted from all the five qualities and implications of the internet. Each domain has its own social ramifications in terms of technology, economy, policies, legal and decision making. They have to miss the fun of communication and adapting to a changing world of information. The Chinese have limited access to information and the government has been on this injustice. Socially, people are supposed to change their rigid traditions to reflect civilization and equity. However, they lack the information on the policies and ways they can change the social inequality since they never know the initiatives they can apply or organizations that can help them fight different abusive vises. For example, the fight against gender violence and gender inequity are very advanced in other continents while it remains untouched in some of the Chinese regions, despite hosting the famous Beijing conference for women.

The social sights act as entertainment to the users, helping them to know other hobbies and games that are found in other regions and even participate in them; thus the Chinese are left out in the fun and entertainment. The sites also advertise several events that people can attend in order to get entertained; however, this is not the case in China since the pages are blocked.

Reunions are common on social sites. Currently, many people find the people they were connected to when they studied during elementary, junior school, high school, or even college and campus through social sites. This will help them reconnect with them and get new links of where they are or the job they undertake. This will enable the individuals to fit socially with others and get assisted in any difficult situations. The Chinese may lack these options since the social sites are considered a distortion of the government plans. They limit person-to-person communication and the flow of information.

Business ramification

Quelch, in the article “quantifying the economic impact of the internet” gives results of a study that indicate the users of the internet as reported the leading activities of Internet users as; “used a search engine to find information (81 %); looked up the news (76 %); used online banking (74 %); looked up the weather (65 %); researched a product or service before buying it (63 %); visited a brand or product Website (61 %); paid bills (56 %); watched a video clip (51 %); used a price comparison site (50 %); listened to an audio clip (44 %)”. This indicates the magnitude of revenue that china is losing in blocking cities.

The value of the internet in relation to business can be grouped into employment, payment and time. In employment, the internet gives a livelihood to 1.2 million individuals to advertisements, commerce and setting up and maintaining its networks directly and also offers 1.54 indirect jobs. In payments, an amount of $175 billion through advertising retail transactions, and direct payments are accumulated in the US economy only. In time; many people have been using the internet every minute with the valuation being at $680 billion. In addition, the internet contributes to the economy by encouraging innovations, productivity, entrepreneurship and creativity in businesses which foster the development of individuals through increased income. With such incomes, China can rule the world since it has the largest internet population; thus ceasing the current censorship of the internet holds the key to China’s success, revolutions and development.

Business is the main economic activity that people can indulge in to make a living. The internet has seen business revolutionize to become faster, easier and less involving. E-commerce, as it is known today, has been intense with people earning millions of cash through online trading. The exchange has been online and the information is obtained on the net.

When one wants products, searching for them on the internet is the easiest way, and when the products are obtained then one pays online and everything is delivered later. This enables people to know and evaluate the best products in the markets in terms of quality and quantity and the best prices that the products cost. To this end, businesses and companies have developed websites that give clear information on the products offered, terms of sale, and mode of purchase. This creates a great potential for business within and without the countries. When the Chinese government blocks such sites, it makes the Chinese community lose a lot in business since they cannot get the information on the goods, or trade online whatsoever.

People also use the information to plan their purchases. With the negative influence of the internet on the Chinese people then people tend to ignore China and its products since they fear other hidden restrictions that may apply to the products once purchased. Thus they tend to plan their purchase focused on other areas thus making the businessmen in China lose the deals and generally less competitive.

Online booking for hotels and holiday destinations has been the trend nowadays; thus with the Chinese being cut out with such important information then they end up traveling expensively or not traveling at all. They don’t have information to compare several places and destinations in other countries thus work on assumptions for those who want to travel. Adventure and leisure travel may be restricted since these people will only tend to travel to places they know of. The effect of this is an opportunity lost on tourism as diversity in marketing may be prohibited or restricted.

The journey around the world with the click of the mouse is enjoyable and fun. When one sits on a chair and surfs his/her way around different sites without limited pages then one enjoys, this will make people spend so much time in the cyber cafés translating to huge profits to the cyber café owners, and thus enhance the flow of income. However, where the sites are restricted, people will spend very little time; thus interfering with the income distribution in the economy. Indeed, this affects the business and households that depend on the internet for income.

The PPC government has also been limited control the profits that come from the sites. Besides controlling those who build the websites, the content in the sites and its effects, it also controls how one uses the profits from the site. This is managed through the ministry of public security. By regulating the profits that are got from the sites, households who rely on the sites are economically and financially affected.

Effective communication is a key factor in the development of a good business atmosphere. This is the communication between employees and other business associates that are within the work systems. This enhances faster transactions in the business such as the flow of invoices, orders, delivery notes and balance sheets. When this is blocked in an organization then the business returns to physical transactions which take extra time and money.

Businesses use the internet to reach different customers around the globe, they also use it to extend their reach to new markets in the global economy. However, when the pages are blocked in certain areas, the business will have a problem reaching such new markets thus being potential candidates to be locked out of the business. They will not know emerging companies’ new technologies, new products, or even when they can be potential suppliers, lack of information will limit access to such an opportunity.

The internet has brought about huge competition among businesses thus requiring openness in the provision of information about the products. However, limitations on the accessibility of the internet fail to update the users on such matters as current prices and qualities; this makes the market fall for low-quality goods or even high prices. Indeed, the markets might end up being flooded with unnecessary products that may not be needed.

Research of the markets will be hard to carry out and the amount of business being transacted will be had to establish since the locals have no ordering capacity due to limited sites in the region. Therefore, it will be hard to establish the amounts of automobiles, hardware, electronics, travels, appliances, clothing and other items needed in the region without the data.

Political ramification

Knowledge is power and this can bring about a revolution in any place despite its conservativeness or strict rules. Politically, the internet can be said to have taken its toll in the public blogs where each person’s opinion is taken into account. Politicians may either be cyber optimists or cyber pessimists. Cyber optimists perceive the internet to have changed the position of the populace in response to public issues, therefore, enhancing participatory democracy. The cyber pessimist believes that the internet has no place in the development of democracy and liberalization in the present world. These two schools of thought bring two conflicting ideas with the first idea being what the PRC fears most when censoring the internet. In a democratic world, censoring should be the last word in their dictionary but in china, it occurs on information which is a basic factor for democracy.

The internet gives a chance for political mobilization and involvement throughout the country with its promoting efficient governance and true democracy. Blog spots with the material will educate the citizens about the political injustices to present hence a euphoric mood for all people. Mass action can also be planned for the outperforming members of the political class thereby ending a regime of unproductive members. The internet enables individuals to have self-selection of the news and information, utilize blogs to express themselves on the net, and have a say in public opinion. Thus people from different backgrounds and ethnicities, contribute different ideas and perspectives thus enhance true democracy. This is not present in China due to the censorship of the internet. The PRC fears the unity of homogenous groups through the internet who have similar objectives and like minds hence resulting in ideological divergence and prejudice. This means that the regime would be overpowered by the citizens who unite through the internet.

Chinese citizens are deprived of the right to participate in forums that can help understand their country better, and the right to true justice and democracy. They live under a dictatorship that violates their rights to expression and right to information. Political blogs have been blocked due to personal reasons that favor the PRC government.

Blocking sites that are supposed to educate the citizens about their rights such as Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Hong Kong voice of Democracy and Direct Democracy center speaks volumes about the PRC government in terms of furthering the dominance of dictatorial ideologies that were developed in the great firewall of China. The government has tried to keep the citizens in the dark about what it does while the government agencies have given scanty information leaving the people unable to make important decisions.

A clear example of huge online success is given by Meinardus in his article “The political impact of the internet” wherein South Korea a presidential candidate won the elections by neglecting the mass rallies and using the internet and contact devices. In his part, the author refers to it as webocracy. The Chinese community is missing out on the best tool that can change their lives through the enhancement of democracy. The internet can mobilize millions of people to outdo the dictatorship of the current regime and install a regime that cares and understands true leadership and freedom. Moreover, they are missing out on cyberspace campaigning and the flow of their voices through censoring.

Politically, the Chinese are losing a lot sine limited access to the internet means that they cannot participate in local political discussions that may be developed by people online. This creates an uninformed public. Indeed, the government forms a dictatorial regime on their rights and many cases of human rights abuse may be present. This leaves them unengaged in whatever the government does. This void created due to lack of political discussion creates denial of justice and outright neglect of democratic space and what the government does is to reduce political activism since the people can invite others to bring a revolution that will free the people of China.

Conclusion

The internet can be said to be unique since it combines various modalities of contact such as broadcasting group discussions and personal interactions with other contents such as text, visual images and videos within a single means. The internet has been celebrated in many areas since it has revolutionized the flow of information; however, the case of China is different because it has been politicized and certain measures have been taken to block the flow of information from the internet. This is dictatorial and uncivilization on the part of the Chinese government.

The internet lowers the cost of information and makes the people able to get the information on important links such as employment opportunities, a situation that will directly impact positively not only on the living standards of people but also to cohesion in all the government efforts to provide services to the people and end poverty.

The internet contributes to the economy by encouraging innovations, productivity, entrepreneurship and creativity in businesses which foster the development of individuals through increased income. China is blessed with one of the highest population indexes in the world, and should it take advantage of the internet in information transfer, the country would reap handsomely from the global market. However, censorship will only tend to block the country’s success, revolutions and development.

The government blocking of blogs and human rights watchdogs needs to be addressed since there is a violation of human rights. The internet gives a chance for political mobilization and involvement throughout the country it promoting efficient governance and true democracy. Blog spots with relevant material will educate the citizens about the political injustices to present hence bring about civilization. Mass action can also be planned for the outperforming members of the political class thereby ending a regime of unproductive members. The internet enables individuals to have self-selection of the news and information, utilize blogs to express themselves on the net, and have a say in public opinion. What this means is that the Chinese are losing maximally by censoring the internet.

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