Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Week 8 Responses

Hey all, we only have a few readings this week. We will be discussing free speech and the media in China. As usual, post your responses before class.

Richburg, Keith B. "In China, microblogging sites become free-speech platform," (Washington Post) March 27, 2011.

Bristow, Michael."China Defends Internet Censorship." (BBC News) June 8, 2010.

"BBC Chinese Service Makes Final Broadcast in Mandarin." (China Digital Times) March 25, 2011.


  1. It is a good point to think that micro-blog could become a way of building the platform for free speech in China, however, with the government's censorship, I do not see it is possible for micro-blog to do anything real in action besides promoting the awareness of domestic and international affairs. It is promising, though, in the future that it might become a method for the central government to communicate directly with its people, and also for Chinese people to acquire information outside of the "Great Firewall of China". From US's point of view, it can turn out to be a window for outsiders to see the concerns of young generations of China, and how that might affect political decisions. Even if none of those people who post on micro-blog actually have the power, it is a trend to believe that their thoughts on political reformation and international relations could stand for the ideas of the next generation of authorities in China, which should be in the central government in 15-20 years.

  2. I think the heavy censorship just shows the lack of confidence of Chinese government in itself. Not allowing media to fully report sensitive events might work in the old days without internet, but in today’s China with nearly 420 million internet users, blocking information doesn’t work very well, especially for the group of people who are highly educated and with overseas experience.

    From my own experience, Chinese government has loosened their censorship on some sensitive words. At least I have seen many articles sneering at Mao’s grandson or criticizing Cultural Revolution on some forums, portal sites and renren.com.

  3. I think this is one further sign that China will inevitably democratize. @ tong, I think you make a great point -- the Chinese government will actually lose the trust of the people if it continues to (unsuccessfully) censor the public discourse.

  4. Microblogs can serve as forums for the debate and dissemination of ideas, but I think they are still a long way from becoming truly open avenues of free speech. The fact that topics such as the imprisonment of Lu Xiaobo are blocked indicates that the Chinese government still endeavors to control public opinion. Though the Chinese government doesn't censor everything on the microblogs, it perhaps does so knowing that the less controversial issues pose only a minor threat to its authority. Considering the failed Jasmine Revolution, which had sought to reach the people through online mediums, I am not too optimistic about the microblogs' ability to effect actual political change beyond passive discussion.

  5. It is clear that the Chinese people are craving and finding outlets to truly express themselves. As an American, I can feel nothing but empathy for individuals and people who grasp for their right to the freedom of speech and in some way, the fact that they have to use microblogs as an outlet is saddening.

    Although it seems unlikely that the Chinese government will begin to slowly pursue some kind of policy of "glasnost", I think the United States must simply continue to back an expansion of internet access in China. The internet will continue to revolutionize the way people communicate and more outlets like Sina.com will continue to spring up in the future. Slowly, policies of censorship will begin to fail.

  6. I agree that the censorship shows a Chinese lack of faith in it's own government. While it doesn't mean the government itself shows little faith, it does imply that they believe the citizens will. Under guise of defending it's citizens agains the more evil parts of the internet, it actually seems to be protecting itself, blocking sites that disrupt unity or spread civil unrest to the people.

    Obviously the blogging sites can help as a forum for free speech, but to be honest, I think this more helps the government gain insight into the thoughts and beliefs of the general population. It is hard to lead a revolution or spread unrest through theories and thoughts that could be posted on blogs with no real evidence to back up claims. All the evidence remains blocked by the Chinese firewalls.