Media Censorship in China
Censorship is a situation whereby the government controls the works of the media houses to ensure that sensitive information is not released to the public. This censorship is particularly concerned with what is posted in the internet because it is the fastest form of communication and with the introduction of technology most of the people learn about news and events through the internet. China has 384 million people using the internet and this has prompted the Chinese government to inspect what is being broadcasted by the media, it approves some of the content and disapproves others. This is done under a wide variety of laws and regulations either by blocking websites or restricting what people can access from the internet. One of the reasons for internet censorship in China is to protect the leakage of sensitive information on the political activities that directly affect how china does business with other countries (Shirk p.5). The Chinese government uses a lot of money every year for censorship. These censorship rules apply to all internet users in China irrespective of their nationality. The rationale behind the censorship is that China is a sovereign country and as such it has the mandate and the powers to control access of formation through the internet. This paper discusses on why the Chinese government should be more liberal to the media and provide a freer environment to the journalists and the media staff to broadcast information. It further illustrates the benefits of providing this freedom outlining the benefits the country gains when it comes to establishing and maintaining good business relationships with other countries.
Mass Media Internet Censorship and its effect on China’s politics and Economy
China has an exceptionally large number of internet users as compared to other countries in the world. This is attributed to the fact that internet is available cheaply and most of the Chinese families are separated from their families by work necessitating them to use internet often to learn the activities in their country and keep in touch with them. On average every Chinese internet user spends about 2.7 hours a day on the internet. This shows that most of the information spread in the country is sourced from the internet which is a cause for concern on the quality and reliability of the information disseminated through this means (Amey and Rasmussen 1997 P. 93)
According to China real time (2012), the government has much control on the social media in China such that it is almost like a government’s puppet. An example of this is the news of stripping former Chongqing party, Chief Bo Xilai, of his party position on the accusations that his wife was concerned in the death of former British businessman. Neil Heyhood was found dead in a Chongqing hotel. The news were announced at around 7pm, and a post was made at the Weibo social Network by a fan, and within 15 minutes of the posting, the post had over 50,000 reposts, and this made the government panic. The social networks were the ordered to delete any information concerning this on their websites and block any search concerning Mr. Bo and Ms Gu’s names and start a massive erasure of early postings. This they did in a wholesale manner that it even erased its own official postings. This clearly shows that even though they are allowed to operate, local social media are not independent but under a watchful eye of the government. The only good thing is that the Government can only limit access to information in the social media, but cannot distort the available information because social media is a direct communication mechanism (“China Real Time” Para 7). Inciting the public to oppose a particular party is a major threat to peace in any given country. When the government controls information on political activities and the reports given about them, it is a major step towards ensuring a peaceful coexistence between the parties involved and the media houses because this a major determinant towards other countries willingness to do business with the country. However, the reaction and measures given on such accounts should be reasonable to ensure that existing beneficial information is kept and the extreme politically risky information is avoided. This ensures that media houses are not completely restricted to give scanty information that may not be helpful. It should be noted that these three entities that is; economic growth, marketing and internet censorship are highly dependent on each other and for success to be achieved they should work as one unit without opposition. (Tang p.87).
The media plays as an economic agent through providing awareness to potential business partners and this indicates that if the government works with the media as one, it will promote business and improve economy .However the media has been ignored when recognizing China’s economic development, instead is has concentrated on its criticism which is a drawback towards creating a healthy interrelationship between the media and the government to promote the country’s economy. Giving the media liberty would lead to reduced political control and promote indirect marketing of the country because this means more information will be available to the foreign markets. The government can reduce its involvement by providing guidelines on the unacceptable content and letting the media houses censor their content on their own. This way the risk of providing wrong inciting messages is small and can further be overcome by the participation of political parties in supplying information. For instance in a case where a certain political party wishes to communicate its activities to the public, it can do so by posting on its site rather than letting the media give the information. This means that the media will only report what the party has already provided which helps reduce the cost of producing and filtering this content (Hebererand and Gunter p. 176).
The government more often is aware of the methods of circumventing censorship that media houses adapt to survive in the broadcasting activities and it employs highly qualified professionals who find a way of going round the circumventing methods. This can be done by blocking the enabling software and networks. The government will also block all the alternative domain names of websites and the physical IP addresses. Such processes are continuous and require that the government keeps adapting new methods of curbing tricks employed by media professionals and keeping up to date with new software inventions. This is costly and unnecessary for the government if both patties came into an agreement on what is relevant and what ruins the government. The media strongly influences the view of the public on economic and political issues; this influence which can be positive or negative is what the government should be concerned about and not matters to do with a particular political party or opinion. If the media is allowed to diversify then it is expected that the public opinion will go along with the kind of content that is availed (Tang p.93).
Internet censorship has led to narrowing of the intended audience because the information given is limited thus discourages readers from keeping track and reading. This greatly undermines the role of the media considering that they are expected to provide content that pleases, entertains, attracts and informs the audience. Such severe restrictions make it hard for the news producers to come up with content that is appealing to the audience. Worse still, the avenues for reaching many people are diminished which means less chances of creating business ideas and attracting these ideas to business investors both domestic and foreign and this indirectly affects the economy. This has led to the invention of other alternatives whereby the Chinese nationals who desire internet freedom are working hard to find a way out of the censorship. Looked from a positive perspective, there is the chance that this is going to produce a noteworthy technological invention to curb internet censorship. There is now in place an urban dictionary, which is used to define new alternative words. These words can be used to access the blocked sites without the knowledge of the government watchdogs. Self censorship by the media houses is a major solution towards controlling and ensuring that the media is able to provide as much information to the public as possible. This will give liberty to the media houses to give information while still obeying the stipulated government laws on the content released to the public. (Latham p. 38).
Chinese leadership like the rest of the leaders in the world is interested in their political survival, and the most guarded area is the exposure of information that could provide a basis for their dismissal or end of their political careers. Such selfish interests have contributed to the unfair treatment of the media with such control on what they write on politics. This for example is evident in the instances where the media cannot openly critic or give out their views about the CCP party rule and reveal information about any dissatisfactory event in that party. Such criticism is what brings out the real operations of a particular group and provide awareness about the nature of the government while providing insights on what should be done and the expected corrections in the future. It promotes good governance because leaders cannot engage in activities that are likely to cost them their careers when the media is watching. Giving the media liberty to do this leads to an informed nation that allows its citizens to make informed decisions on the kind of leaders to choose and bring on board. It is only ethical to choose leaders whom citizens have confidence in and know fairly well about. Such knowledge can only be found in the sources available with internet being number one on the list through the postings made by the media. This promotes democracy and also gives confidence to foreign investors that the political system of the country is well known to the people and reliable (Latham p. 68).
It is ironical that China is one of the most developed countries in terms of technology yet when other countries are busy maximizing the internet in their activities and business, China is lagging behind. With the advanced technology most of the activities that involve business are carried out in the internet, teleconferencing has become a common practice in the business world with most of the communication being done through emails. Internet censorship has led to lack of interest and reliability in running business activities via the web. This is a cause for concern because the world is going global and the global markets sole means of interaction is through the internet. With the global competition that all countries are participating in, internet censorship is bound to disconnect China from the rest of the world and the country will not be able to compete at the same level with the rest of the countries who are able to access any information at any time (Mack para 2).
Human rights activists are also on their feet trying all they can to call attention on China on the access to information and freedom of expression. Human rights and efforts to prevent them is an infringement of civil liberties. The civil liberty activists are both international organizations and local organizations. Their work is to dissuade the government from censoring the media because it is a curtailment to the enjoyment of human rights (Zuchora p.53). Internet censorship is a violation of human right issue of freedom to access of information and should be totally discouraged. In China, the ability to access information from the media is determined by the political situation of the country rather than the social economic status of an individual. When the government controls media, it increases the number of factors that determine the amount and quality of information that a person receives. This is a form of violating human rights because it denies the freedom of a person to access information at liberty. It gives an individual the feeling of being watched over and denies them the freedom to their privacy. When nationals do not have the right to a wide variety of information, their willingness to participate in national activities that foster growth is also diminished. Therefore if media censorship is discouraged, the country is likely to grow because the citizens will be free to access information and learn about the political systems which can help them come up with business ideas and see their potential in participating in business growth of the country. (Tang p. 94).
China’s internet censorship will lead to development of internal social media organizations. This is because through censoring, the government has ensured the local social media to avoid competition from the more developed western organizations. With the blocking of the big firms, the smaller local firms have been given an ample time, and space to develop. The fact that they are growing, is evidenced by the fact that Renren, one of the biggest social networks in China is planning to raise about $500 million dollars from the New York Stock Exchange. This blockage of international companies from dealing in China, is actually presenting a trade barrier against the World Trade Organizations regulations (WTO). This is because this is a non tariff barrier to trade. One way in which the internet censorship in China could be remedied, is by the WTO member countries joining hands and approaching the censorship from a barrier to trade perspective. This is because social media from other countries are not free to operate in China while China’s entities are free to trade in those other countries. China can be threatened with trade sanctions, and this has the tendency of forcing it to be a bit lenient on its internet censorship. If the government supports the media and lessens the restrictions to help them provide adequate information, probably this can help attract more investors thus building the economy (Deibert p. 14).
The future of the Chinese internet censorship on social network cannot be predicted with certainty. This is because the censorship if influenced by various factors, including political reasons of wanting to silence the opinions not belonging the ruling party. What remains to be pondered is what will take place when there is an alteration of the government and a more liberal government takes over. The likelihood is that media censorship will be stopped. The government’s concern in the kind of information disseminated by the media is sensible and appropriate. However the extend to which the government has gone to protect the risk of producing politically risky content is beyond the necessary and this has proved very costly with a lot of the governments finance being directed towards censorship. The benefits of letting the media houses operate on their own and self censor their content outweigh the cost. If the media is viewed as an agent for promoting marketing and economic growth with less critics being directed to them, this could turn around the present condition and provide more avenues for foreign investment and business growth.