Sunday, August 28, 2005

Chinese media resisting party control

Can the Chinese Communist Party retain its control over the media, including the Internet? Or is the growing unrest about to reach the surface? Experts differ on how successful China's efforts at censoring the Internet are. Some think the Great Firewall has many holes, others view it as quite effective:

Chinese media resisting party control

A rare protest by Chinese journalists at a leading national newspaper offers a window into the intensifying severity of information control in China and the sometimes sophisticated resistance to it by Chinese journalists. A frank 19-page letter by Li Datong, a senior editor at China Youth Daily, details a struggle between the news staff and senior party officials over policies that the journalists say would encourage propaganda. Mr. Li's letter, leaked Aug. 17, took issue with a new "appraisal system" introduced by chief editor Li Erliang. It would tie promotion and monetary reward to praise by party officials. In the new "pay for praise" policy, reporters would receive 50 pay credits for high reader response, but between 90 and 120 pay credits for stories praised by communist youth league officials. "If you don't change this appraisal system, our paper will become a complete fake," Li wrote in the dissent. The larger backdrop is a nearly two year push by the powerful central propaganda department to more firmly control and limit expression. News services are under orders not to quote Chinese intellectuals not approved by the party. Newspapers may not report events or issues in other parts of the country unless a regional party paper has first reported the news. Popular Internet discussion groups have been blocked. Cellphone text messages are filtered.

Great Firewall of China News

The GFoC is not impenetrable. Many bloggers try to make it hard for the great cybernannies to find them by using replacement characters. Some replacement words include M@o and F---- G---. Additionally, many bloggers will use just about anything to avoid using the T-word (whether it is 1 or 2). Humans can still easily decipher the meanings, but a search for the banned words won't find them. China has a lot of people but hiring people to read every webpage and blog doesn't seem to be all that practical, even to the Chinese government. In the blogosphere, one of the most common comments on the subject is criticizing the Western companies that facilitate China's censorship. The most often criticized companies include Cisco, Microsoft, and Google.


With a total of 61 Internet users in detention at the start of May 2004, China is the world's biggest prison for cyber-dissidents. It is also the country where the technology for e-mail interception and Internet censorship is most developed. What's more, the authorities recently decided to tighten the vice and roll back the few gains made by Internet users in recent years. The Chinese authorities use a clever mix of propaganda, disinformation and repression to stifle online free expression. Initial hopes that the Internet would develop into an unfettered media and help liberalize China have been dashed. What has happened in China has shattered generally accepted ideas. The Internet can indeed become a propaganda media. On its own, it will not suffice to support the emergence of democracy in any significant way. And it can be totally controlled by a government that equips itself to do so. Indeed, the way the Chinese government has sabotaged online dissent offers a model for dictatorships around the world.

China - Annual report 2005

The government continued its privatisation of the media and kept up its ruthless harassment of reformist journalists. The written press, experiencing competition for the first time, took some chances but was monitored and sanctioned by the propaganda department. The government has deployed huge resources to maintain the monopoly of state radio and television CCTV and the press agency Xinhua. Systems such as a "great wall of sound" allowing it to scramble international radio were stepped up. With the help of French company Thalès, ALLISS aerials were set up in every corner of the country to block foreign radio waves. Thousands of dishes have already been removed from homes. Despite everything, the press has grown bolder in challenging officials about social issues and disasters such as the death of 166 miners in Shaanxi Province in November.


At August 28, 2005 5:16 PM, Blogger erp said...

Being reborn as a modern state is painful for all concered.

At August 29, 2005 5:00 PM, Blogger Unknown said...


The National Post ran an interesting article last week (sorry, I can't find the link and it's probably a paid subscription site anyway) that was published in one of the official Chinese newspapers. The conclusion of this report was that China had about 5 years to address economic disparity between the increasingly affluent cities and the stagnating and poverty stricken rural regions. The report stated that they doubted the society could withstand the strain. The National Post article stated that this may have been an officially leaked report as it was printed in one of the main government newspapers. It's an interesting read if you can locate the article - it was published sometime last week.


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