On my previous blog, I talked about the power of search engine nowadays. It is so powerful that we could get all information that we need in a single click. However, when it comes to the Internet in China. It is a whole different world. to give you a better understanding on this topic, watch this..
China has been controlled by the power of Chinese Communist Party for more than six decades. As the Internet industry continues to expand, the government continues to tighten controls on on-line expression. China makes a systematic, comprehensive, and frequently successful effort to limit the ability of its citizens to access and to post on-line content the state considers sensitive. Since 1995, at least sixty sets of regulations have been issued aimed at controlling Internet content. In December 2010, Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) started requiring websites to register their true identities. The government said this was to crackdown on pornography websites, but many believe it has been another way for China to create a list of approved websites and block innocent websites. The broadly worded regulations represent a clear violation of the right to freedom of expression, and the government is devoting considerable time and resources to trying to implement them (Watch, 2001).
China is the world’s second largest economic power and it has the most impressive censorship program. It employs more than 30,000 Internet police (Summary of China Rights Developments). The censorship program called the great firewall of China. China control what people upload to the Internet with the IP blocking. The government monitors every computer in China and if they detect something that is suspicious, everything from that computer is blocked. Another way that the government do to control the Internet is by filtering keyword. MIIT uses filtering software that detects sensitive words in data moving through a network. The filtering software avoids users from accessing banned information in the Internet. When a user tries to search for banned words like ‘freedom,’ the software detects the banned word and sends reset command to break the connection (OpenNet Initiative, 2005).
Over the years, the Chinese government has also instituted a self-censorship culture. Every website hosting company is responsible on the content they have in their website. Every provider hires staff to actually find offending content in the website. Not only local company, many big international companies like Apple, Google, and Yahoo! Have filtered searches in order to do business in China (Mack, 2012). However, In January 2011, Google decided to stop censoring its website.
The censorship does not stop Chinese people seeking the truth that is hidden by the government. Everyday, many people use illegal software to bridge the great firewall of China. The Internet, as a medium, has continued to provide ordinary citizens a public sphere to discuss public affairs and influence public policy within certain limits.
Many researchers think that this virtual community will undoubtedly have positive effects on the expansion on public sphere in the real world (Wang & Bates, 2008). Some even argue that the online community is not completely “virtual” but practical/real in a certain sense. It’s a place where people can supervise state power; criticize governmental wrongdoing and influence public policy making. And there are also scholars who assume that online community is an ideal public sphere in many facets. These scholars admit that flaws exist in this community, but they insist that with the potential conceived by the new features, online community can operate well as the public sphere (Wang & Bates, 2008).
By “the public sphere” we mean first of all a realm of our social life in which something approaching public opinion can be formed. Access is guaranteed to all citizens. A portion of the public sphere comes into being in every conversation in which private individuals assemble to form a public body. They then behave neither like business of professional people transacting private affairs, nor like members of a constitutional order subject to the legal constrains of a state bureaucracy. Citizen behave a public body when they confer in an unrestricted fashion – that is, with the guarantee of freedom of assembly and association and the freedom to express and publish their opinions – about maters of general interest. In a large public body, this kind of communication requires specific means for transmitting information and influencing those who received it. Today, newspapers and magazines, radio and television are the media of public sphere.
As a communist country, China has a very limited freedom. However, the Internet helps the people to form public opinion. The Internet is acting as a public sphere in that sense. Being under the communist rule for many decades does not make Chinese people surrender their life under by the government. Massive protests against China’s censorship come from the citizens. The grass-mud horse has become nothing less than a phenomenon – it is the greatest sign of their protest. At least 1.4 million viewers watched the video that portrays the lives of Chinese behind the great firewall of China in a cartoon form. Stores are selling grass-mud horse dolls. Chinese intellectuals are writing treatises on the grass-mud horse social importance. The story of the grass-mud horse struggle against the evil river crab has spread far and wide across the Chinese online community. Many researchers think that this virtual community will undoubtedly have positive effects on the expansion on public sphere in the real world (Wang & Bates, 2008).
Chinese online space is acting as a public sphere that allows ordinary citizens to discuss public affairs. When the public opinion is strong enough, it can influence public policies to ensure that they reflect and match real public interests. This is a big step in the progress of democracy in China. Hartford (2000) has suggested that the Internet development in China would result in “the inexorability of the political opening-alternative sources of information, communications channel beyond government control”. In 2005, Zeng and Wu have found that the Internet seems to bring more substantial political impact in China than in democratic countries. They found that in China, nearly 80% of the people think that the Internet gives them better understanding of politics, compared to only 43% in the United States, 31% in Japan, and 48% in South Korea. Moreover, nearly 61% of Internet users in China thinks that by using Internet, they can have more to say about what the government does, compared to 20% in Unites States, 24% in Japan, and 26% in South Korea (Zheng & Wu, 2005). They attribute the difference to perception that in democratic countries, people have channels beyond Internet to express personal opinions to participate public affairs, while in China people do not have as many alternative venues.
The Internet enables all the citizens to access the The first and most obvious disintermediation provided by the Internet. Users are not longer restricted to what the media are available locally; they have access to the world, and in many places. Affordable broadband Internet also drives Chinese people to entertain themselves with social media.