Censorship in China

It has become increasingly evident in recent times, that the Chinese government is continuously reinforcing their internet firewall, substantially censoring their people from access to such sites as Google, You Tube, Facebook, and Twitter, in an effort to smother perceived antigovernment sentiment among the citizens of China. Internet censorship in China is considered by many to be the most stringent in the world. Keith Bradsher said, “A complex government computer system intercepts internet communication with an ever-changing list of banned web sites and key words that block access to the people of China.”

Virtual Private Networks or VPN's is a tool for encrypted computer networks that was created by business computer experts, as a means circumventing China's lengthening list of web sites considered politically sensitive ( Bradsher). China this past year has aggressively stepped up its efforts of blocking the countries deemed illegally run VPN's. China's internet security apparatus maintains the Communist party's lock on political power, while attempting not to choke off their growing position on the global economy.

This recent very intrusive Chinese Communist censorship machine that is continuing to step-up efforts of plugging more of the gaps of desired internet perceived threat, has been termed as the internet's "Great Firewall." China's "Great Firewall" according to VPN provider, Astrill, published a message saying that an update to the "Great Firewall" gave China's internet police the ability to learn, discover, and block VPN protocols automatically (Mark McDonald). China has further toughened its restriction of internet use by assigning Chinese companies greater responsibility for deleting forbidden postings with serious threatened consequences to those companies not deemed abiding to the deletion participation requirements (Sharon LaFraniere).

The Chinese culture is one of the world's oldest cultures (Alex Colgan). It is the oldest continuous major world civilization, with records dating back 3500 years. (Alex Colgan). The area in which in which the culture is dominant covers a large geographical region in eastern Asia with customs and traditions varying greatly between provinces, cities, and even towns. The total area of the country is approximately 3.7 million square miles, consisting of 23 provinces, five autonomous regions, including Tibet, four municipalities, and as of December 31, 2012 includes a population of 1.35 billion people of world’s estimated population of 7 billion, estimated by both the United Nations and the United States Census Bureau (Andy).

Two thirds of China literacy rate, with Mandarin being the dominant language with many local variations of local dialects (Alex Colgan). There are seven major Chinese dialects and many sub-dialects. Mandarin the predominant dialect is spoken by over 70% of the population and is taught in all schools and is the medium of government. In the southwest and southeast there are six other major Chinese dialects spoken. Non-Chinese languages are spoken by the ethnic minorities and include Monglian, Tibetan, Uygur, and other Turkic languages, as well as Korean which is spoken in the northeast region of China.

“The Han Chinese people make up 91.9% of the population, with Zhuang, Manchu, Hui, Miao, Uygur, Yi, Mongolian, Tibetan, Buyi , Korean, and other nationalities making up the remaining 8.1 % of the people of China” (Alex Colgan). Important components of the Chinese culture include education with a heavy emphasis on science, mathematics and technology. Also, music, literature, visual arts, martial arts, cuisine, and architecture are also important cultural areas of emphasis and interest in China.

China is governed by a one-party system with a powerful control lying within the Chinese Communist party. The Chinese Communist party was founded by Chen Duxiu and Li Dazhao in 1921. Today, it consists of a unicameral legislature called the National People's Congress, (NPC), consisting of deputies who are indirectly elected to terms of five years. The NPC can elect or remove high officeholders, can change China's constitution, and decides on national economic strategies (China Government). The executive branch consists of the president who is head of state, and the premier who is head of government (China Government).

The president is elected by the NPC for a five-year term and can be reelected for a second term. The premier is nominated by the president and approved by the NPC (China Government). Power within the government of the People's Republic of China is divided among three bodies: the Communist Party of China, the state, and the People's Liberation Army.

All positions of significant power in the state structure and in the army are occupied by members of the Communist Party of China which is controlled by the Politburo Standing Committee of the Communist Party of China, a group of 5 to 9 people, usually all men, who make all decisions of national significance. The role of the Army is to enforce these decisions in times of crisis.

Despite the heavy concentration of power by the Communist party, the central government's control over the provinces and local governments is limited, and they often are able to act with relative impunity in many areas. Although the legal system is not independent of the government, a huge problem exists at the local level, where corrupt officials manipulate the process to protect themselves and limit citizens' rights.

Although China's constitution ostensibly guarantees the right to free speech and expression, statutes allow the state to easily suppress all criticism to internet censorship. The Chinese Article 105 of the Criminal Law criminalizes organizing, scheming, or acting to subvert the political power of the state and overthrow the socialist system and incitement to subvert the political power of the state and overthrow the socialist system by spreading rumors, slander, or other means (Ten Worst Chinese Laws).

Jiao discusses how other than internet censorship, there are several other obvious censorship events of media control in China. The first is a very deliberate effort by Communist China to control all aspects of media to ensure isolation of its citizens from the outside world. To accomplish this, China makes it difficult for overseas journalists to gain access to the country for interviews. Even when they do acquire permission from the Chinese government, their freedom is highly circumscribed. Another method of media control is to interfere with and disturb the reception of international radio services, for example Voice of America and BBC. In cities, the interference is especially strong. There are also serious restrictions on international satellite services.

Generally, with the exception of government officials of a certain ranking, the general public is kept from receiving such services. China’s isolation from the outside world has been a long tradition, which ultimately implanted a sense of fear in the general public when dealing with interviews from overseas media. This censorship policy of isolating China from the world has caused the information flow in China to become a one dimensional, one channeled, one way flow (Jiao Guobiao).

Fig. 1) Chinese government has blocked and censored certain words and events on the internet. Very Recently, Google has blatantly accused the Chinese government of claiming that Google technical problems were to blame for the disruption of Google Services throughout China. All the while, the Chinese government denies increasingly policing and enforcing stringent internet censorship efforts as the reason for the actual disruption of Google services.

The Chinese government's aggressive internet censorship efforts has significantly limited communication access to the Chinese people on matters concerning human rights, democracy, the independence of Taiwan, the Dalai Lama, protests at Tiananmen Square, and other subjects deemed politically disruptive to the communist party (Sharon LaFraniere)

According to the article “Internet Censorship beyond China” China for Google represents an immense untapped revenue opportunity in the global market. China is one of biggest internet market segments with a digital population that exceeds 300 million (Giovanni Vimercati). Google has been extremely proactive in ensuring that the United States government would be extremely supportive of their position regarding China's internet censorship of its services. Google was being investigated by the FTC for illegally collecting personal data from users all over the world.

Google was quick to point out that it was an involuntary mistake whereby their data collected in question had been accidently gathered. Reassured by Google's explanation, the FTC immediately dropped the investigation. The timing of the dropped charges by the FTC was suspicious to say the least according to critics and competitors of Google.

“Less than a week before the FTC's decision to drop the charges of inquiry, President Obama attended a $30,000 per person Democratic Party fundraiser at the Palo Alto, California home of Google executive Marissa Mayer Carlson, Google's former head of public policy.” (Giovanni Vimercati) Google's Andrew Mclaughlin joined the Obama administration as the deputy chief technology officer in mid-2009. Google's Chief Executive Officer, Eric Schmidt serves as a member of President Obama's Council on of Advisors on Science and Technology.(cite) Katie Stanton, former Google project manager, now joined the Obama administration as Director of Citizen Participation.

Also, Sonai Shah, former Google head of global development, is now head of the White House's office of Social Innovation. (Giovanni Vimercati) Needless to say, the United States government and the liberal press have been extremely supportive of Google’s concerns regarding China's internet censorship.

But is this a question of our United States’ democracy driven by a capitalistic free enterprise system, being out-maneuvered by China's Communist government's political strategies to gain an unfair competitive advantage on world trade? Or is this a question of an isolated conglomerate like Google, which has obvious significant clout with the Obama administration, trying to cash-in on their political favors, and screaming unfair business practices by China? The incredible growing trade deficit with China from 2001-2010 magnifies my concern of China's unfair business practices with the rest of the world.

The trade deficit during that timeframe cost 2.8 million jobs, (lost) in the United States (Robert E. Scott). Aside from rapidly increasing internet censorship in China continuing to grow our trade deficit, there are several other unfair business practices worth mentioning that will further defend my position. These include China's currency manipulation, trade distorting practices, and extensive subsidies, illegal barriers to China's imports, and dumping and suppression of wages and labor rights (Robert E. Scott).

Upon researching this topic of internet censorship in China, it became extremely obvious to me that one of our most treasured liberties as Americans is our freedom of speech. In the USA, the First Amendment opposes governmental censorship of speech through the Fairness Doctrine or by government enforcement of speech codes.

Given that other major American corporations which are competitors of Google such as Facebook, Microsoft, and Yahoo are echoing the exact same concerns as Google, in regards to China's internet censorship, would lead me to conclude that China is continuing to isolate their people via their censorship policies which their statutes permit, but in that process, China is very deliberately gaining an unfair business trade advantage with the rest of world, especially with companies in the United States of America.

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Web. 06 Mar. 2013. LaFranerie, Sharon, and David Barboza. "China Tightens Censorship of Electronic Communications." The New York Times. The New York Times, 22 Mar. 2011. Web. 06 Mar. 2013. McDonald, Mark. "Adding More Bricks to the Great Firewall of China." IHT Rendezvous Adding More Bricks to the Great Firewall of China Comments. New York Times, 23 Dec. 2012. Web. 06 Mar. 2013. Morrow, Will. "World Socialist Web Site." Chinese Government Imposes New Internet Censorship Law -. N.p., 7 Jan. 2013. Web. 06 Mar. 2013. Vimercati, Giovanni. "Internet Censorship beyond China." Internet Censorship beyond China (2013): 1-2. - China.org.cn. 09 Jan. 2013. Web. 06 Mar. 2013.