Prior to this week’s readings, I was largely unfamiliar with the media censorship practices within China. I have heard mention of the Great Firewall of China and keyword blocking, but was unaware of specifics regarding any of this. The piece by King, Pan and Roberts (2013) provided theories regarding China’s goal in censoring as well as examples of ways media is censored.
While the stated purpose by the Chinese government is to limit horizontal transmission, the theories the authors proposed were state critique and collective action potential. State critique posits Chinese leadership suppresses negative information regarding the state, policies or leaders. Collective action potential states the goal is to prohibit people from joining together to express themselves.
Based on their findings, it appears that the goal is more so to decrease collective action. And for control purposes, this makes sense. There are a lot of people in China and if they were to unite, this could certainly lead to uproar and chaos. Additionally, with the Black PR, it’s almost not necessary to censor negative information about the state. Custer (2013) writes about the underground industry that is dedicated to deleting posts and articles for pay. Despite being illegal to receive funds for such, this has turned into a highly profitable industry.
Of course, part of the reason this is necessary is because of how fractured the media system is in China. The graph provided by King, Pan and Roberts (p. 4) illustrates the numerous different individual sites. Compared to the US which has the majority of social media interaction concentrated to a handful of sites, China’s system seems to be much more complex in terms of censorship. With this in mind, it’s no wonder it is up to the individual sites to self-censor.
What this boils down to is the control of information. As Roberts writes, in China the government owns the information. And based on Zhao’s article, citizens are aware of this. The censorship of collective action allows the government to retain control over ideology, at least to an extent. While China may be a bit more extreme in their tactics (or at least more overt), I think the US does this to an extent as well. We’ve discussed previously the government funding movies that portray the military in a positive light. And, of course, with the recent news of the National Security Agency’s increased surveillance, I have to wonder how much monitoring or even censorship occurs here in the US. And as for the surveillance, I personally have nothing to hide and on an individual level am not overly concerned. However, with the increased findings of racial/political profiling here in the US, I wonder if these practices will lead to problems.
DQ: With the fractured nature of China’s media as well as ways around the censorship bans, do you foresee the netizens gaining more control or the government circumventing this?